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IBM To Build 20 Petaflop "Sequoia" Supercomputer For US DoE

Computing giant IBM, otherwise known as Big Blue, has announced that it will be building the world's fastest supercomputer called Sequoia, with a processing power of 20 Petaflops, for the US government by 2012.

The massive computer will be used in the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to crunch data in relation with America's military arsenal (nuclear simulation tests) although other civilian uses could be envisaged.

IBM says that Sequoia could match in one hour, what the world population's armed with calculators could achieve in 40 years or so, delivering the processing power of 2 million laptops (assuming each of them has a processing power of 10 Gigaflops). By the time it is released, it will be more powerful than the current Top 500 most powerful super computers put together.

Big Blue has already delivered the first computer that broke the Petaflop barrier and current record holder.. The Roadrunner was delivered last year to the US Department of Energy of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico (ed: DoE gets all the new toys) and is built on AMD Opteron and Cell processors.

Sequoia will be made up of 100,000 PowerPC processors (still unannounced) with 16 cores running at significantly faster speeds than 850MHz and having access to 1.6 Terabyte worth of memory. Its power consumption will be slightly more than the current generation of super computer and it will have the same carbon footprint.

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Our Comments

Hard to believe that the first supercomputer to achieve one teraflop was built only 13 years ago. Nowadays, a single video card based around the latest GPU technology - like the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 is capable of 1.2 Teraflops. The next speed barrier is 1000 Petaflops or Exaflop, and something tells us that we won't need to wait for 13 years for it to happen.

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Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.