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Supercomputing: Right on time 2010-Nov-14 at 19:08 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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The growth of supercomputing capability in the world continues along it’s exponential curve.  In the wake of China staking out its territory by announcing the world’s fastest supercomputer, at 2.5 petaflops, the United States announces its next move: two different 20 petaflop systems by 2012.

From U.S. building next wave of supercomputers, by Patrick Thibodeau, 12-Nov-2010:

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, home for what has been the world’s most powerful system, the Jaguar, a 1.75-petaflop system, versus Tianhe-1A’s 2.5 petaflops, is building a 20-petaflop system that will include accelerators.

That system will be ready in 2012, James Hack, director of the National Center for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge, told Computerworld. No other details about the system are being offered.

Another 20-petaflop system is being built for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by IBM. That system has already been announced and is expected to arrive at the lab in late 2011 and be in production in 2012.

To put this in perspective, according to Wikipedia, "As of June 2010, the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world combine for 32.4 petaFLOPS of computing power."  That means that, in less than two years, we’ll have two systems in the United States that, together, are more powerful than the top 500 supercomputers on Earth today.  Japan will have a 10 petaflop system as well.

Additionally, the price per gigaflop (a petaflop is 1,000,000 gigaflops) has dropped from $15,000,000 in 1984, to $30,000 in 1997, to $1,000 in 2000, and today to around $0.14.  That’s right: from $15,000,000 to 14¢, and we’ll soon get a gigaflop for under 1¢, on hardware available to ordinary consumers around the world.

That’s how fast supercomputing power grows.  That’s how fast it grows for us as well, on ordinary computers.  More computing power, less cost to build it.  It’s fun to watch.

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