IBM Roadrunner - Currently The World's Fastest Supercomputer


Say hello to the new greatest computer on the planet--weighing in at a svelte 500 000 pounds.
Roadrunner is a supercomputer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA. Currently the world's fastest supercomputer, the US$133 million Roadrunner is designed for a performance level of 1.026 petaflops peak, which it reached on May 25, 2008, and to be the world's first TOP500 Linpack sustained 1.0 petaflops system.


IBM built the computer for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). It is a hybrid design with almost 6,912 AMD Opteron dual core processors and almost 12,960 IBM PowerXCell 8i CPUs in special designed TriBlades connected by Infiniband.



Roadrunner has been in development since 2002, and went online in 2006. Due to its novel design and complexity it is constructed in three phases and is yet to become fully operational.

Phase 1

The first phase of the Roadrunner was building a standard (albeit quite large) Opteron based cluster, while evaluating the feasibility to further construct and program the future hybrid version. This Phase 1 Roadrunner reached 71 teraflops and has been in full operation at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing advanced weapons simulations since 2006. Even if Roadrunner had not been greenlit for Phase 2, the Phase 1 form would still be a formidable supercomputer and would have ranked, at it's time, in the top 10 list of the worlds fastest computers.

Phase 2

Phase 2 known as “AAIS” (Advanced Architecture Initial System) included building a small hybrid version of the finished system using an older version of the Cell processor. This phase was used to build prototype applications for the hybrid architecture. It went online in January 2007.

Phase 3

The goal of Phase 3 was to reach sustained performance in excess of 1 petaflops. Additional Opteron nodes and new PowerXCell processors were added to the design. These PowerXCell processors are five times as powerful as the Cell processors used in Phase 2. It was built to full scale at IBM’s Poughkeepsie, New York facility, where it broke the 1 petaflop barrier during its fourth attempt on May 25th, 2008. The complete system will be moving to its permanent location in New Mexico in the summer of 2008, where fine tuning of the applications will continue until final completion in 2009.

- It occupies approximately 12,000 square feet (1,100 m²)
- Logically, a TriBlade consists of four Opteron cores, four PowerXCell 8i CPUs, 16 GB Opteron and 16 GB Cell RAM.

Connected Unit (CU):

A connected unit is 60 BladeCenter H full of TriBlades, that is 180 TriBlades. All TriBlades are connected to a 288-port Voltaire ISR2012 Infiniband switch. Each CU also has access to the Panasas file system through twelve System x3655 machines.

CU system information:

* 360 dual-core Opterons with 2.88 TiB RAM
* 720 PowerXCell cores with 2.88 TiB RAM
* 12 System x3655 with dual 10GBit Ethernet each
* 288-port Voltaire ISR2012 switch with 192 Infiniband 4x DDR links (180 TriBlades and twelve I/O nodes)

The final cluster is made up of 18 connected units, which are connected via eight additional (second-stage) ISR2012 switches. Each CU is connected through twelve uplinks each second-stage switch, that makes a total of 96 uplink connections.

Overall system information:

* 6,912 Opteron cores with 51.8 TiB RAM (in 3,240 LS21 blades)
* 12,960 Cell cores with 51.8 TiB RAM (in 6,480 QS22 blades)
* 216 System x3655 I/O nodes
* 26 288-port ISR2012 Infiniband 4x DDR switches
* 296 racks

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