Elementary my dear Watson: A supercomputer will solve all our problems!

On May 26, 2008 IBM broke a mystical barrier that had existed in computer operations for over a decade: A sustained speed of 1 million billion calculations per second or what is known as “1 Petaflop.”

The computer that performed this feat is called RoadRunner and it’s a beast costing over $133 million to build.

This goal had been set back in 2002 and programmers pinned their hopes on a Linux operating system and a hybrid design consisting of two AMD Opteron ™ dual-core processors plus four PowerXCell 8ITM processors used as computational accelerators.

This is very similar technology to that used in the Sony Playstation 3 and considered a ‘unique’ approach to building a supercomputer.

Would you believe that while lightening fast this computer is actually only the 4th fastest supercomputer in the world according to ZDnet?

The machine is example of the massive computing power that will soon be accessible via the Internet for scientific, research and military purposes.

We refer to this as cloud computing or computing “on-demand” which is fast, cheap, elastic and easy to operate. Virtual Internet offers smaller computational resources through VMware and Xen deployments we call virtual dedicated servers.

The Roadrunner has now been installed at the Las Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA.

What’s next? Big Blue has decided that it is time to compete in the legendary game show called “Jeopardy” in the United States. This is a natural evolution in public relations since it defeated chess grandmaster Kasparov several years ago.

The RoadRunner system (and related computing resources) will be nicknamed “Watson” and will push the boundaries of natural language processing in supercomputers.

Spoiler alert: Watson destroyed the competition. You can see how this went in this video

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