5-Year-Old Supercomputer is Already Obsolete

Anyone pursuing a career in information technology may not be surprised about how quickly technology is evolving, but it sure has the rest of the world reeling. Roadrunner, declared the world's fastest supercomputer just five years ago, is being dismantled because it has been deemed obsolete.

According to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Roadrunner was the first supercomputer to make one million billion calculations per second, breaking the once-elusive petaflop barrier in 2008.

Roadrunner cost more than $120 million to build, and its 296 server racks cover 6,000 square feet, ArsTechnica reported. Roadrunner's hybrid architecture - never before seen on that scale - also made it particularly unique.

"Roadrunner was a truly pioneering idea," Gary Grider, a leader in the Laboratory's High Performance Computing Division, said in a statement. "Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer. Specialized processors are being included in new ways on new systems, and being used in novel ways. Our demonstration with Roadrunner caused everyone to pay attention."

The primary goal of the supercomputer was high-speed calculation, and Roadrunner met and surpassed that goal on an unprecedented level. This allowed researchers to use Roadrunner for a variety of purposes, including studying the decay of nuclear weapons and modeling viruses and unseen sections of the universe.

Despite the unprecedented calculation speeds reached by Roadrunner, its title as the world's fastest supercomputer was soon removed. Roadrunner was dethroned in 2009 by Jaguar, another project from the U.S. Department of Energy, which reached 1.76 petaflops. In 2012, the supercomputer Titan took the lead with a speed of 17.6 petaflops.

As a result, Roadrunner has been declared obsolete, and will be studied by researchers for a month before being completely dismantled later this year.

According to the Laboratory, supercomputers of the future will need to be more energy efficient than Roadrunner and have the ability to store even more massive quantities of data used in their astronomically large calculations.

It is estimated that supercomputers will be one thousand times faster than Roadrunner by the year 2030 - how's that for obsolete?

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU offers online bachelor's and master's degree programs in IT. To find out more, please visit their website at www.wgu.edu.

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