August 28, 2008

Progress to exaflop computers and specialized supercomputers

Wehner, Oliker, and Shalf estimate that a general-purpose exaflop machine using today's technology would cost $1 billion to build and 200 megawatts to power—enough for a small city. By comparison, they estimate, a specialized exaflop machine would cost just $75 million and consume just 4 MW.

Berkeley Labs and Tensilica are working together on a hardware mock-up as this site has covered before. IEEE Spectrum reports that the plan is to bench-test a single processor by November and a parallel array of processors by the middle of 2009.

According to Horst Simon, who heads the Lawrence Berkeley lab's research computing center, the proposed machine would not be so specialized that a new algorithm would render it instantly obsolete. “We are building hardware that runs not just one algorithm but a large class of related algorithms,” he says.

D.E.Shaw Research of New York City said that by the end of the year it will have a specialized machine, called Anton, that can simulate molecular interactions hundreds of times as fast as anything now available.

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