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Michael Feldman on the Petascale World that Roadrunner Built

Over at TOP500.org, Michael Feldman from Intersect360 Research writes that the recently retired 1 Petaflop Roadrunner supercomputer set the stage for today’s hybrid supercomputers.

In retrospect, Roadrunner could be viewed as a something of a design cul-de-sac, created by the artificial goal of the petaflop milestone. But it’s notable that even in the contrived race to a quadrillion flops, something of worth endured. Although the PowerXCell 8i was a commercial dead end, x86/accelerator combo servers took off and are now sold by every HPC system vendor, IBM included. For the time being, accelerators offer the only commodity-based technology that delivers multi-petaflops of supercomputing in reasonable power envelopes, not to mention tiny systems with multi-teraflops capability. The energy efficiency of these accelerators, compared to standard processors, is driving the technology into mainstream HPC and is stretching the number of FLOPS that can be squeezed into a datacenter or into a deskside cluster.

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