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Petaflop Supercomputer's Storage Exposed

The Roadrunner supercomputer announced today by the U.S. Department of Energy and IBM supports massive speed and legendary proportions, but its consumption of shared storage is relatively puny.

The supercomputer, housed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, doubles the speed of the previously largest system included in the soon-to-be-updated world's Top 500. That one, IBM's BlueGene/L system in Lawrence Livermore National Lab, has a theoretical peak performance limit of 596 teraflops. Roadrunner's is 1 petaflop (over 1,000 teraflops, or one thousand trillion calculations per second).

Roadrunner has 80 Tbytes of internal memory. It couples 12,960 hybrid "Cell engines" originally made for commercial video games with 6,948 AMD Opteron chips on blade servers housed on 288 IBM BladeCenter racks. Over 10,000 InfiniBand and Gigabit Ethernet connections (more on those momentarily) requiring 57 miles of fiber optic cable interconnect the racks and link out to external storage.

Considering the scale of all this -- not to mention Roadrunner's weight of 500,000 pounds and cost of over $100 million -- IBM confirms a fairly modest amount of external storage, at least by enterprise standards: The system's builders plan to deploy 1.5 Pbytes of Panasas storage, via 200 of the vendor's ActiveStor 3000 shelves, linked via 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches from Force10. The 10-Gbit/s switches will hook up with InfiniBand switches from Voltaire (more on those momentarily). Roadrunner deploys 10-Gbit/s Ethernet adapters from MyriNet.

That hardly compares with the 14 Pbytes claimed by JPMorganChase ITers, along with other humongous SANs.

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