IBM’s Roadrunner Supercomputer Gets Wylie Coyote’d By Faster, Greener Tech, Officially Retires

IBM Roadrunner Supercomputer

The IBM Roadrunner supercomputer is headed for retirement despite still being classified as one of the world’s 25 fastest supercomputers.

The $121 million supercomputer, housed at a nuclear weapons research laboratory in northern New Mexico, will be decommissioned on Sunday.

While the supercomputer is still superfast, it is also much larger, less energy efficient, and more expensive to maintain than newer technologies.

Gary Grider, a Los Alamos National Laboratory worker in the high performance computing division, tells NBC News:

“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 IBM Roadrunner supercomputer broke an important record in 2008 when it became the world’s first supercomputer to break the petaflop barrier, processing more than one quadrillion mathematical calculations per second.

While the supercomputer was build with help from IBM and world class nuclear weapons engineers, it was build using commercially available parts. The supercomputer eventually took up 278 refrigerator-size racks that were filled with two different processor types. The supercomputers builders utilized 55 miles of fiber optic cable to operate the supercomputer.

Researchers have utilized the supercomputers technology to examine the universe, understand lasers, fight viruses, and build better nuclear weapons technology by improving the nation’s aging weapons arsenal.

Los Alamos researchers are now sharing supercomputer Cielo with scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Cielo is faster and takes up less space. Cielo was also cheaper to build at just under $54 million.

Researchers believe they will break the exascale barrier, or one quintillion calculations per second, by 2023 to 2033.

Speaking of Roadrunner’s achievement Chris Deeney, NNSA Assistant Deputy Administrator for Stockpile Stewardship, said on Sunday:

“Roadrunner exemplified stockpile stewardship: an excellent team integrating complex codes with advanced computing architectures to ensure a safe, secure and effective deterrent. Roadrunner and its successes have positioned us well to weather the technology changes on the HPC horizon as we implement stockpile modernization without recourse to underground testing.”

No ceremony will be held for IBM’s Roadrunner supercomputer; instead, researchers will spend the next month figuring out how to best compress data they have already created with the Roadrunner’s help.