back to article World's first petaflops super dumped on scrap heap

Roadrunner, the first supercomputer to break through the petaflops barrier and the first capability-class machine to demonstrate the viability of using specialized coprocessors in conjunction with processors, is having its plug pulled at Los Alamos National Laboratory. It's time to hack in and play Crysis while you still can …

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  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Maybe Cell power attracted soul eaters from the fifth dimension?

    That would be explain glassy-eyed salesdroids. They HAD to get rid of it....

    > and a simulation of the universe at a 70-billion-particle scale.

    What simulation is that? I know about DEUS-FUR at 549 billion particles running on the CURIE supercomputer in France and the Millenium Simulation series with 10 billion to 348 billion particles.

  2. Herby

    Now a new use?

    They can put it to use doing nanowire material behavior, magnetic reconnection, laser backscatter, HIV phylogenetics, and a simulation of the universe at a 70-billion-particle scale.

    Sounds interesting...

    I was going to put an icon up, but I thought better.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Now a new use?

      Problem would be taking it apart, moving it to a new home, putting it back together and then paying to keep it running. If its not running nuclear simulations for the gov they aren't going to cover the bill, what kind of crazy nation spends on science when it isn't science that helps blow people up?

  3. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Paying to keep it running.

    "Problem would be taking it apart, moving it to a new home, putting it back together and then paying to keep it running."

    This --^

    With the main problem being the paying to keep it running. 2.35 megawatts at 10 cents per kwh would come out to a $2,058,600 a year for power.

    Moore's law suggests a similar capability super would now use about 1/8th the power.

    I'll look at specs for IBM Sequoia now -- this eliminates some variables, both Sequoia and Roadrunner are from IBM (so it's not comparing a commercial system and a home-built...) and both going to DOE ($$$ markups anybody? $$$). Sequoia does about 16 petaflops in 96 racks... this suggests a (2012-era) 1 petaflop costs about $12 million (versus $100 million for Roadrunner). Power use would be about 450 kilowatts (so power is only about 1/5th instead of 1/8th.)

    So, if someone got the system shipped and installed for free, it would be "cheaper" (if you can call $2 million in power cheap) in the short term.. But in 2 years, a 1 petaflop super (following Moore's law) should cost ~$6 million, and be down to about 1/10th the power of the original system (about $200,000 in power bills or so.) In about 5 years, you'd pay more in power in one year than it'd cost to buy a replacement system and the power to run it.

    I think CPU/GPU hybrids may in fact run that price and power down several years ahead of schedule too.

    1. pixl97

      Re: Paying to keep it running.

      I agree that Hybrid systems will bring the power/price down much faster, if the performance numbers on the FirePro SM10000 hold up. 1.4T of DP math... uuhh, that's crazy. The Nvidia K20 isn't a slacker either. Since supercomputers by their nature are parallel, GPUs will inherently speed them up.

      1. frank ly
        Flame

        Re: Paying to keep it running.

        I've said it before but I'll say it again: Put large 'supercomputer' installations in cold northern cities where the waste heat can be sold on to provide heating for the surrounding buildings. That would reduce the running costs.

        Some people will say, "But I don't want to go work in a cold northern city." Well, you don't have to because there's fibre optic comms and the internet.

        (Flames: heat - useful and valuable)

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Paying to keep it running.

          The heat that comes out of these systems is regarded a low-grade. What this means is that the temperature differential is not high enough to make it particularly practical to use.

          Roadrunner is air-cooled (see the picture, spot the hot-cold aisles and no water-cooled rear doors), so the the heat will be picked up by the air handlers.

          I've worked with 2 generations of IBM was water-cooled supers, and the output temperature of the water is around 25 degrees centigrade (although slightly hotter for the newer system). This is colder than the ambient temperature of the halls (it's a power concious organisation that is experimenting with running the machine rooms hotter than you would normally expect to save power). This makes it less than luke warm, and certainly not hot enough to even heat the water to wash your hands. The cooling works by cooling the water before sending it to the super (input temperature around 13 degrees centigrade), so the cooling was actually at the wrong end.

          Of course, you could use heat-pumps to concentrate the heat, like ground water heaters, but there is a law of diminishing returns operating. If it takes more electrical power to concentrate the head than would be necessary to directly generate the same amount of heat, there is no gain.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Paying to keep it running.

            "What this means is that the temperature differential is not high enough to make it particularly practical to use."

            It just needs a separate condenser. Or did Apple patent that already?

          2. Pookietoo

            Re: cooling the water before sending it to the super

            There's your heat source then - the refrigeration plant pre-cooler.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: cooling the water before sending it to the super

              Even that's not really possible. They use an evaporative cooling system as much as they can (they really are into providing the perception that they use as little power as possible - which could be understood if only you knew who they are). The only time that this cannot be done is when the outside temperature is too high, and this is likely to be the time that heating anything is least required.

              I got my information directly from the building power and cooling engineer/manager, and if he can't work out a way of getting something useful back, I'm certain it can't be easy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Paying to keep it running.

      My netbook uses 14 watts, and it wasn't made by IBUM either.

      They should use netbooks instead.

    3. fnj
      Alert

      Re: Paying to keep it running.

      "With the main problem being the paying to keep it running. 2.35 megawatts at 10 cents per kwh would come out to a $2,058,600 a year for power."

      Bovine excrement of the highest order. That is chump change. There are 69 million income tax payers in the US (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_tax_payers_are_in_America). This amounts to 3 CENTS each. A heavy burden - NOT. It's not even noticeable. It's so far below the noise threshold of national spending that it's not even worth one second of worry.

      I also predict that your Moore's Law projection down the road is (1) outside the domain of what Moore's Law is actually concerned with (hint: it's not cost), and (2) it is nearing the point of becoming dramatically outdated as physical limits are approached.

      Another thing that fairly leaps out of the numbers. The expense to run this item for its full lifespan (so far) is only 10% of the acquisition cost. It's less than the debt service on the investment.

      Keep it running as a national resource. Don't even bother SELLING time on it; AWARD time on it to winning applicants based on interesting and useful projects.

  4. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Just checking in

    I had to make sure the obligatory reference to playing Crysis was included.

    Good job.

    Carry on.

    1. Anonymous IV
      Joke

      Re: Just checking in

      "Crysis? What's Crysis?"

      (apologies to James Callaghan, or, more accurately, The Sun's deliberate misreporting of what he said...)

  5. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
    Boffin

    "Think of all the copper"

    is not that appropriate as a title for a picture showing fibre cables! Those are fibre Infiniband cables, with electro-optical transceivers (like SFPs) at both ends. The colour is a dead give-away.

    Undoubtedly there will be quite a lot of copper in the system, but not in the picture.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: "Think of all the copper"

      It sure won't be easily gypsy-accessible...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    May get flamed for this but...

    can't it be retasked to what it did before?

  7. Wayland Sothcott 1
    Thumb Up

    Bitcoin mining

    It ought to be good at Bitcoin mining. As long as it does not use too much power.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opteron lol

    World's last Opteron supercomputer.

  9. Wil Palen

    forget Crysis

    .. Planetside 2 should benefit much more of all that parallelism, maybe even to planet scale :)

    (added benefit is that they can scrap the *side from planetside, leaving planet)

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