1. Technology
IBM Blue Gene
The world's most advanced network supercomputer from International Business Machines will tackle Grand Challenge problems
An Article by your Guide Bradley Mitchell
 Join the Discussion
"I was at an IBM seminar today, and one of the speakers asked the audience:

'Do you have any idea what the size of the Internet is these days? You know, you've got bytes, kilobytes, gigabytes, terabytes... and do you know what comes after that?

'Someone in the audience piped up - Trilobites!'"
-XAVIANA
 
 Related Resources
• Network Clustering
• Bandwidth and Latency
• Network Topologies • Availability Concepts for Networks and Systems
 
 Elsewhere on the Web
• IBM Research - Blue Gene
 

The Need for Speed
The speed of a supercomputer is most commonly measured in terms of Floating Point Operations Per Second, or FLOPS. FLOPS is just one measure of computer performance, but it is an especially relevant measure in the supercomputing world, as most supercomputers must perform advanced scientific calculations involving floating-point arithmetic.

Early scientific computers like the IBM 701 performed at less than 10,000 FLOPS. A modern personal computer, by contrast, is capable of 1,000,000,000 FLOPS or more.

As fast as PCs have become, they still cannot match a good supercomputer in terms of raw performance. The table below charts the historical performance of computing platforms in FLOPS.

Computing Performance in FLOPS
Performance TierFLOPS equivalentKey Platforms
kiloflops (KFLOPS)1,000 FLOPSIBM 701 (1953)
IBM 704 (1955)
Apple II (1977)
megaflops (MFLOPS)1,000,000 FLOPSCDC 6600 (1966)
Cray 1 (1976)
Intel Pentium (1993)
gigaflops (GFLOPS)1,000,000,000 FLOPSCray 2 (1985)
Thinking Machines CM-2 (1987)
Microsoft Xbox (2001)
teraflops (TFLOPS)1,000,000,000,000 FLOPSIntel ASCI Red (1996)
IBM ASCI Blue Pacific (1998)
IBM ASCI White (2000)
NEC Earth Simulator (2002)
petaflops (PFLOPS)1,000,000,000,000,000 FLOPSIBM Blue Gene (2005-2010?)

IBM ASCI White supercomputer at LLNL

IBM ASCI White supercomputer at LLNL, image courtesy Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [source: "www.llnl.gov/llnl/06news/NewsMedia/asci_images.html" (offline)]

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