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Supercomputers

A couple of months ago the US finally climbed back to the top of the computing food chain thanks to a new system designed and created by IBM. Previously, the top spot was held by Japan with their famous “K” Computer manufactured by Fujitsu.

The supercomputer that secured the top spot for the US is IBM’s monster that goes by the name of “Sequoia”. Built to endure both physical depreciation and obsolescence, this “technical tree” has over 1.5 million processor cores and is able to achieve 16.3 petaflops. With such high values, computing and software development experts all over the world thought that it would take a considerable amount of time until another computer would dethrone the Sequoia. Well, they were wrong. Over the following weeks Oak Ridge Laboratories will power up the “Titan” and it’s speculated that this technological wonder will be able to achieve speeds of over 20 petaflops.

Now, these numbers might seem Chinese to some of you reading this, except Chinese readers of course, so to put things in perspective, before unveiling more info about the Titan here is some general background on Supercomputers.

First of all, what exactly is a Supercomputer ? Well, it’s precisely what its name hints at: an extremely fast system. The speed of these super-machines is measured in “petaflops” with one petaflop equaling 1015 operations per second. To get a better idea of exactly how fast this is just write “1” and put 15 zeros after it. Are you done ? Good. Now multiply that by 20 and you will get the rumored speed of the “Titan”.

No matter how you look at it, everything about Supercomputers is a superlative. Aside from being super fast they’re also super hot. It takes over three thousand gallons of cold water per minute to keep one from overheating. Energy consumption rates are also extremely high averaging 7 megawatts and reaching even 9 megawatts during extreme usage. By the way, one megawatt = one million watts.


Now let’s get back to the machine that was uncloaked last month by Oak Ridge, namely the “Titan”. This latest tech marvel is part of a new trend that advocates using graphics processing chips for some of the more difficult operations. And speaking of difficult operations, the Titan will probably be used for highly complex experiments and simulations. With over 18,700 processing units and over 700 terabytes of memory you can rest assured that the guys operating it won’t be playing any Solitaire or Minesweeper.

 
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