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AMD: Teraflop (sic) in a box

AMD is talking today about its single-system, Accelerated Computing platform “that breaks the teraflop computing barrier.”

At a press event in San Francisco, AMD demonstrated a “Teraflop in a Box” system running a standard version of Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional that harnessed the power of AMD Opteron™ dual-core processor technology and two next-generation AMD R600 Stream Processors capable of performing more than 1 trillion floating-point calculations per second using a general “multiply-add” (MADD) calculation. This achievement represents a ten-fold performance increase over today’s high-performance server platforms, which deliver approximately 100 billion calculations per second.

The press release has a note that irritates me (if you know that this isn’t wrong, leave a comment so I don’t continue to labor in ignorance). In answer to the question “what’s a teraflop” their release says: “A teraflop is one trillion floating point operations per second.” This is incorrect as there is no such thing as a teraflop. It’s teraflops, as in tera floating point operations per second.

FLOPS is both singular and plural, unless you seriously want to argue for FLOPSES, at which point I’ll have to strike you hard between the eyes.


  1. Violence inherent in the system, eh?

  2. Your distinction between teraflop and teraflops, for the given context, is 100% accurate (the “s” is for seconds, *not* to pluralize flop). However, we can say 1 teraflops, or we can say 1 teraflop/s, where teraflop means billion floating-point operations (an entirely different usage than AMD’s). Take a look at, where the performance of their SGI is given in TFLOPS. Now look at, where the performance of their Cray is given in TFLOP/s. Both usages are totally correct. It is in this latter context that the term “teraflop” exists. Note that the terms TFLOPS and TFLOP/s are dimensionally [floating-point operations/second], whereas TFLOP is dimensionally [floating-point operations]. Thus, *ALL* computers that contain floating-point hardware are “Teraflop in a box.” Of course some systems will do that teraflop faster than others!

    The basic issue is ignorance, which one would think could be cured via education. In Mississippi, where I live, some folks think license is plural. Example: “I ain’t got my license; the judge took *them* away from me.” As it turns out, stupidity, that is, ignorance coupled with an unwillingness to be educated, cannot be cured.

    A few years ago at work, a document was published wherein MB was defined as “millions of bytes.” Thinking I was doing everyone a great favor, and being eager to establish my credibility (since I was the new kid on the block); I painstakingly constructed a document which carefully described why the definition was wrong. I explained that the prefix, M, did sometimes mean 10^6, as in MHz, but that when used with bytes it meant, 2^20, as in 20MB. I used several examples and sprinkled my diatribe with just enough satire to motive the folks who messed things up into fixing them. The net result of all this is that I was accused of nit-picking (that’s the nice version). The final rationalization for their continuing stupidity was two-fold; 1) “disk drive sales folks use millions of bytes so we should too,” and 2) “it’s close enough.” It was quite aggravating. Let me paraphrase the first justification, “Billy is being stupid, so I’ll be stupid too.” As to the second justification, I tried using that at the bank when they charged my wife $30 to cover her 13-cent overdraft (it *did not* work – the banking world has this silly insistence on accuracy). As stated earlier, stupidity cannot be cured.

    The moral of all this is that your engineering instinct and desire for accuracy in describing units of measure (in ALL venues) are not likely to make much of an impact on the farmers, politicians, sales folk, courtiers, and businessmen who make decisions about what gets published; essentially, you are a wart. I do laud your courage for trying. Please forward me a copy of the email that AMD sends when they acknowledge their ignorance and thank you for the education. Neither of us should hold our breath while waiting.

  3. So should we be saying Gigabits Ethernet?

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