Cray close to breaking petaFlop barrier
Cray is preparing to challenge the as yet unconquered performance limit of one petaFLOPs, with a new massively parallel processor supercomputer (MPP) for the University of Tennessee (UTK). This would put Cray in first place in the Top500 list of Supercomputers, last updated in November 2007. The position is currently held by an IBM BlueGene with 212,992 PowerPC440 processors, which jointly reach 478.2 teraFLOPs, that is about half the number of floating point operations per second targeted by Cray. Cray's fasted computer to date, a Red Storm system with 26,569 dual core Opterons, can manage just about a tenth of that - 102.2 teraFLOPs.
Cray's press release claims the "peak performance" (Rpeak) of the machine will be just under one petaFLOP. The overall processor performance Rmax is more relevant for practical applications, which for the Red Storm is about 20 per cent lower. It's likely that the UTK's Cray XT4, which is equipped with the new AMD Quad Core Opteron will show a similar performance differential.
Cray will have to be quick to claim the prize. IBM has been preparing to launch an even faster supercomputer, the BlueGene/P, since last June. Systems in this family have been designed for processor speeds exceeding the petaFLOP limit and can even reach over three petaFLOPs at its highest specification.
UTK plans to use the new computer, scheduled to reach maximum performance in mid 2009, to research global climate change, simulate natural disasters and understand the complexities of the human brain.