I’ve posted notes here about the Top500 project, which publishes a semi-annual list of the world’s fastest computer systems, most recently following the last update to the list, in November 2012.
An article at Ars Technica reports that the IBM Roadrunner system, located at the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, will be decommissioned and, ultimately, dismantled. The Roadrunner was the first system whose performance exceeded a petaflop (1 petaflop = 1 × 1015 floating point operations per second). It held the number one position on the Top 500 list from June, 2008 through June 2009; it was still ranked number two in November, 2009. The Roadrunner system contained 122,400 processor cores in 296 racks, covering about 6,000 square feet. It was one of the first supercomputer systems to use a hybrid processing architecture, employing both IBM PowerXCell 8i CPUs and AMD Opteron dual-core processors
The system is being retired, not because it is too slow, but because its appetite for electricity is too big. In the November 2012 Top 500 list, Roadrunner is ranked at number 22, delivering 1.042 petaflops and consuming 2,345 kilowatts of electricity. The system ranked as number 21, a bit faster at 1.043 petaflops, required less than half the power, at 1,177 kilowatts.
It will be interesting to see how the list shapes up in June, the next regular update.