IBM's Roadrunner Supercomputer Is Retired
What IBM engineers and the researchers at the Los Alamos National Lab were able to do with Roadrunner helped drive the use of coprocessors and accelerators and inform how new systems are being designed, particularly as the industry begins looking to exascale computing—1 quintillion calculations per second, which is 1,000 times faster than Roadrunner—by 2020, though Intel officials have said it could happen by 2018. "Even in death, we are trying to learn from Roadrunner," the lab's Grider said. Roadrunner, which hit a peak of 1.45 petaflops, was listed as the 22nd-fastest system on the November 2012 list of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers. It was knocked from the top of the list in November 2009 by Cray's Jaguar system. However, compared with newer systems, it consumed a lot of energy. According to a report in VentureBeat, Roadrunner consumed 2.3 kilowatts to hit its top operating speeds, while the system that will replace it uses much less power and space. Los Alamos researchers said the newer supercomputers will have to become much more energy-efficient than Roadrunner and better at handling and storing large amounts of data."Roadrunner exemplified stockpile stewardship: an excellent team integrating complex codes with advanced computing architectures to ensure a safe, secure and effective deterrent," Chris Deeney, NNSA's assistant deputy administrator for stockpile stewardship, said in a statement. "Roadrunner and its successes have positioned us well to weather the technology changes on the HPC horizon as we implement stockpile modernization without recourse to underground testing." It also was used in other areas, including nanowire material behavior, laser backscatter and a simulation of the universe at a 70-billion-particle scale.
The supercomputer was used as part of the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) Advanced Simulation and Computer program, running computer simulations of weapons stockpiles for the Stockpile Stewardship Program. That program was part of the United States' nuclear deterrent, according to Los Alamos.