back to article US nuke boffins smash petaflop barrier with 'Roadrunner'

The US nuclear weapons programme has revealed a new supercomputer made from consumer processors, which has broken the petaflop barrier just about in line with projections. The machine, known as "Roadrunner", uses both Cell and Opteron based technology. The New York Times reports this morning that Roadrunner - named in an …


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  1. Peter Fairbrother

    A "mouse brain" should be 250 teraflops

    The Blue Gene L 11.5 teraflop 1/2 mouse brain simulation only ran at 1/10 speed giving 230 teraflops/mouse brain - but 250 teraflops is a better number.

    So Roadrunner cost $113 million and has the processing power of four mice - anyone want to buy four mice for $11.3 million, a saving of 90%?

    -- Peter Fairbrother

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Global warming

    Maybe the best bet for fending off our impending submersion is to work out how to hook up 45 mouse brains and let the US war-machine run their nuke sims on those instead of ploughing 3MW of (no doubt) coal-fired leccy into their CGI death sims.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    Does it have a PCI-X slot for a graphics card?

  4. Scott
    Gates Horns


    Bet Vista still struggles on this rig.....

  5. paul brain

    Hitch hikers...

    Pretty smart frikkin mice then.

  6. ShaggyDoggy


    "Hello Joshua"

  7. Anonymous Coward


    Can it run Elite

  8. Anonymous Coward


    "we calculate that one Roadrunner is approximately as intelligent as 45 mice"

    Or 450 project managers ...

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    Opteron and Cell processors?

    Does this mean that AMDs touted (elsewhere here) "Cell bad, ATI GPUs good" strategy for Opteron-based superdupercomputers has just been strangled at birth?

  10. dervheid

    Keeping the rusty old sabres sharpened, just in case

    I'm way more worried about the prospect of the good ol' US of A maintaining out-of-date nukes for readiness, than a piddling little 3 MW of power consumption.

    The lead-lined, full length one.

  11. Xander


    I'm curious how long it takes to crunch a Seti@Home packet...

  12. Joe K

    /obligatory Crysis quip

    Still not enough for the recently annouced Crysis sequel.

  13. Seán


    They need all that power to check if a nuke is stale or fresh. Isn't there a boffin with a Geiger counter and a slide rule who could figure that one out? I mean if it's 10 megatons or 9.7 it isn't that important.

    Also seeing as this information is coming from the US shouldn't it be assumed to be a lie, almost everything they say is a crock of shit why should this claim be any different. They're already fighting a propaganda war with the Chinese.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    > Does it have a PCI-X slot for a graphics card?

    No, it's already got nVidia on the motherboard, as evidenced by the 3 megawatt power requirement.

  15. Dr. Mouse

    @ AC

    RE: "Does it have a PCI-X slot for a graphics card?"

    Do you mean a PCI-e slot? I am sure they are around but I have personally never seen a PCI-X graphics card. So I will assume you made the mistake (which bugs the hell out of me, sorry) of mixing up the 64-bit Parallel PCI interface PCI-X and the newer, serial PCI-e.

  16. ben

    Shoved it where the sun don't shine.

    Read this and tried installing vista in my pet mouse. It died as a result, so no change there.

  17. Steven Raith

    China rumoured to be working on rival....

    With the power of a cats brain.

    Mines the one with the Tom 'n' Jerry Cat Converto Betamax in the pocket.

    Steven R

  18. James Pickett
    Paris Hilton

    42 mice, surely?

    If those are pan-dimensional white mice, as encountered by Arthur Dent, then I'm impressed. If they're ordinary house mice, then Roadrunner is about as clever as my cat...

    (PH, as I'd like to know where she features on this scale)

  19. Chris Miller

    But does it go ...

    ... "Beep beep"!

    Needs a Wile E. Coyote icon.

  20. Warhelmet

    Pigeon Guided Missiles

    It's a lot of money to prove that something theoretically still works or doesn't. I mean, it's not as if you can get the parts anymore...

    Still, I suppose it's better that boys play with toy cars rather than try to play with the traffic on the M1.

  21. Angus Wood

    Re: Err

    [...] They need all that power to check if a nuke is stale or fresh. Isn't there a boffin with a Geiger counter and a slide rule who could figure that one out? I mean if it's 10 megatons or 9.7 it isn't that important. [...]

    It's a bit more complex than that. The "buildz yr ownz nuke!!1!" plans on teh intarwebs give the impression that nuclear weapons are quite simple beasts but today they have evolved in to startlingly complex things; following both the "maximum bang for minimum material (weight)" and "maximum bang for added complexity of <foo>" principles.

    An example would be the enhanced yeild tricks fission->fusion->fission types where tritium is injected in to the heart of the fission reaction at /just/ the right moment to yeild a fusion reaction which, in turn, dumps enough neutrons out in to a third stage fission explosive - the whole thing timed just right so that first explosion hasn't reached (and destroyed) that final stage.

    The age of the weapon isn't necessarily going to decrease it's yeild (although it might) it may be that it fizzles completely, explodes prematurely and therefore has a low yeild, or (worse of all possible worlds) has it's components mature (decay) in to products which are unstable or start to emit lethal levels of neutrons when brought close to each other.

    The boffin with the slide rule would be able to say "yep, there is something in there which is radioactive" but little beyond that.

    Personally, unpleasant though this subject is, I'd have preferred if the Reliable Replacement Warhead project had got approval. Dial-a-yeild, safe to handle and long lived.

  22. Robert Harrison


    Does it come in a nice case with shiny blue LEDs and lots of USB ports?

  23. Maty
    Paris Hilton

    mouse brains?

    My mouse has a brain? 1/45th of a petaflop just to move a cursor around the screen? And 45 x £9 costs ... err I'll ask my mouse shall I?

    PH, cos mouse-level IQs fascinate me

  24. MarkW

    @Angus Wood

    "Personally, unpleasant though this subject is, I'd have preferred if the Reliable Replacement Warhead project had got approval. Dial-a-yeild [sic], safe to handle and long lived."

    Wouldn't that violate the NPT?

    Just get rid of the weapons and use the petaflop to search for better cancer drugs.

  25. Mike

    @Dr. Mouse

    RE: RE: "Does it have a PCI-X slot for a graphics card?"

    Some people are soooooooo picky, gramatically and technically it's a fine thing to say as PCI-X is backwardly compatible, I have a PCI graphics card in one of my PCI-X slots on my ESX server (water cooled dual xeon btw), therefore, maybe no mistake made.

    The fact that 64bit features of PCI-X didn't really take off explains the common re-usage of the acronym for PCI eXtended, and even manufacturers, retailers etc. use it, given the way that language works (missuse of words being accepted as the norm, therefore become correct), it may be technically incorrect, but it is accepted, (by all but pedants like yourself, I bet you complain about misuse of the word "decimated" as well).


    It was a vaguely funny thing to say, and you either missed the fact that it was a joke or thought that your piffling bit of trivia might actually be important to anyone else but you, the fact that it bugs the hell out of you is the only reason I replied, don't reply or I will taunt you some more.


  26. Ian Michael Gumby


    I think AMD would argue that they could, if given the chance, build the same size machine that would perform better on less power. Of course, you'd need to build the beast to prove/disprove their point.

    The cell architecture is interesting.

    Some friends at IBM did an Informix port to Sony's cell based PS3. (Ok, someone had too much free time on their hands,,,) Somehow I don't think you *can* do this to a GPU.

    So I'd say AMD's calling for the Cell's death a tad premature.

    The penguin... because I believe they also ported Linux to the PS3 too. ;-)

  27. Edward J Benton

    @ Robert Harrison

    > Does it come in a nice case with shiny blue LEDs and lots of USB ports?

    Yes, about 15,000 of each. Mine's the one tied into ten thousand usb missile launchers

  28. The elephant in the room
    Dead Vulture

    If mice are so clever how come they get caught in those traps?

    Perhaps they are pre-ocupied with mental climate modelling and not looking where they are going?

  29. dervheid

    @ Mike & Dr. Mouse...


  30. Andrew
    Gates Halo

    Windows Task Manager

    I wonder what that would look like if that was opened?

  31. Schultz

    And in other news...

    Bates Gill talks about the necessity of disarmament. I am not shitting you, it's the very Gill Bates and he's a fellow interested in peace and free chewing gum for everybody.

    If you wan t to look it up yourself, the following might help: 'Es gebe einen zunehmenden Konsens, dass ernsthafte und wirksame Abrüstungsschritte notwendig seien, erklärte Sipri-Direktor Bates Gill.'

  32. Anonymous Coward

    @ Dr. Mouse

    Actually the 64-bit'ishness of the parallel PCI interface was introduced with the PCI spec rev. 2.something. PCI-X's main claim to fame over the original PCI was the increase of the bus clock from 33/66MHz (66MHz introduced with PCI rev. 2.1) to 133MHz (PCI-X rev. 1.0) or even 266/533MHz (PCI-X rev. 2.0).

    I'll get my coat, fast...

  33. Fluffykins Silver badge

    The answer is...................................................................


  34. Solomon Grundy


    Next time read the instructions before installing any OS on your pets:

    Make appropriate adjustments per your animal type.

  35. daniel

    Was the test rig...

    Made of only 50 000 cores, called Wile E Coyote?

  36. Paul Bottomley

    @ The elephant in the room

    NO It was the camels that were preoccupied with the quadratic equations. the mice are just in charge

    "The fact is that camels are far more intelligent than dolphins.* They are so much brighter that they soon realized that the most prudent thing any intelligent animal can do, if it would prefer its descendants not to spend a lot of time on a slab with electrodes clamped to their brains or sticking mines on the bottoms of ships or being patronized rigid by zoologists, is to make bloody certain humans don't find out about it."

    * Never trust a species that grins all the time. It's up to something.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cue Monty Python mode ...

    Aah! I see you have the machine that goes 'ping'.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    @Ian Michael Gumby

    Well, since it's built with OPTERON chips, I doubt AMD has any complaints.

  39. Mike Moyle

    @ Steven Raith; @ Paul Bottomley

    Re: China rumoured to be working on rival....

    Fortunately, having named their computer "Coyote", it'll always blow up when it loses...

    Re: @ The elephant in the room

    ...and they're telepathic, too; vis. "Homo Saps" by Eric Frank Russell, who warned us about them well before Mr. Pratchett caught on to their little tricks!

  40. Herby

    It probably DOES go Beep Beep!

    And it was made by "Acme Corp", which is what ALL things that Wile E. Coyote buys are. He gets them mail order!

    Of course, they always seem to have the errant anvil that comes down and whacks him on the head as well, but we'll leave that to the multi-megaton bomb.

    "That's a new crater, isn't it?" ... "Beep beep...zoooom"

  41. A.A.Hamilton

    @But does it go ...

    Surely that should be "meep, meep" ?

    Or have I been hearing wrong for the last 40 years or more?

  42. Anonymous Coward


    Just as well that Seagate wasn't behind this - or it would really be 0.91 petaflops...

    It's the one with 24 buttons missing please

  43. Stewart Haywood

    @Steven Raith

    Don't be so unkind about China, it really is chicken.

  44. Jeff Rowse

    Pedant warning...

    Um, shouldn't that be Petaflops? Last time I checked, small 'p' was used for the prefix 'pico', as in "bloody small" (10 to the -12, IIRC). For example, capacitors rated at 10pF.

    On the other hand, since the electronics/IT industriy seems to make a habit of "editing" values other fields have used for hundreds of years, maybe I shouldn't worry (it's fun watching mathematicians trying to figure how the old "Volts=Amps x Ohms" triangle (v=ir, i=v/r, r=v/i) works when they use "i" to mean "the square root of minus 1"...).

  45. Mike Hocker


    Any notice the NYT article goes ... petaflops, exaflops, yottaflops, xeraflops?

    Someone trying to coin a new SI prefix xera-? At least the author didn't try "markofflops" or maybe megamurineflops (or mondokowflops...).

  46. tony trolle

    meep meep

    yes meep meep, twice PCI-X video error on POST ? :-P

    Really if an IBM BIOS thats one beep two is a general POST error; (read the screen for the error code).

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just wait for the fanbois

    when they realise that the cell processor used is the one for the PS3.

  48. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    The problem with programming mice ....

    is that the IDE is really cheesy


    Hat, coat, and away

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Madden '09 for free thanks to the US Govt.

    Get Madden '09 free....only catch is it installs a screen saver for the US government to use your PS3 when you are not....seems like a win/win for everyone.

    Mr Mojo Risin

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