Roadrunner, a $121 million supercomputer composed of IBM’s Cell and AMD’s Opteron technologies, has been decommissioned today, ending a five-year stand as one of the world's fastest supercomputers.
Five years ago, when the Roadrunner was born, it was one of the few supercomputers to break the petaflop barrier, and it took up only 278 refrigerator-size racks to do so. During its glory days, Roadrunner helped researchers understand viruses, energy flow, and many other mysteries that once haunted the minds of scientists.
“Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer,” said Gary Grider, an official at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Specialized processors are being included in new ways on new systems and being used in novel ways. Our demonstration of Roadrunner caused everyone to pay attention.”
Just as most of the world may not ever know Roadrunner’s contribution to the advancement of technology and science, so, too, will it go out with little to no fanfare. Prior to its full dismantling, researchers will spend the next month or so experimenting with Roadrunner’s operating system, and techniques for compressing memory.
Specialists are expecting supercomputers to easily break the exascale barrier within a decade or two, and by that time an array will cost only a fraction of what it does now.
“And to think of where we’re going to be in the next 10 to 15 years, it’s just mindboggling,” said Kevin Roark, another official at the Los Alamos lab.