IBM Supercomputer to Break Petaflop Barrier

The National Science Foundation is prepared to award IBM with a contract to construct the world’s fastest supercomputer the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. The machine cost $200 million to construct and could cost over $400 million during its five-year lifespan.

Designated as the “super” supercomputer, it will be the first to break the petaflop barrier, capable of one thousand trillion mathematical calculations per second. It’s intended use will be for Grand Challenge science projects, such as simulating the effects of global warming. What’s interesting is that processing power was once used mostly for military design and research. For instance, the fastest computers in the U.S. of the past two decades were located in labs either at Los Alamos or Livermore.

To date, the world’s most expensive supercomputer was built by Japan and was known as the Earth Simulator. However, the specialized machine “only” has 35 teraflops of processing power. Built in 2002 for about $350 to $400 million, its operational costs may have reached $0.5-1 billion already. Japan is already planning a more powerful machine for 2011 that they hope will amount to 10 petaflops.