Today, it's time to come back to my roots: supercomputing. If you want to read previous columns on this subject, please use the search box on the right with "supercomputer" as keyword.
In a nutshell, this article says that there are no technical barriers to build faster supercomputers, only financial ones.
Supercomputing speeds continue to rise, with yesterday's fastest machines buried by today's speed kings, but when will supercomputers reach their limits?
Most experts agree that current barriers to supercomputing speeds -- which are approaching hundreds of teraflops -- will fall (a teraflop equals 1 trillion floating point operations per second.)
However, while Joel Tendler [director of IBM's technology assessment and server group] noted that creative and innovative thinking has always conquered computing speed barriers in the past, he said other factors -- primarily economic ones -- can set limits on technology. For example, costs and financing, as well as physical limitations like power consumption and heat, may slow the rate of progress.
"It's a question of finances -- how much do you want to pay?" he said. "There's nothing prohibiting us from building the most powerful supercomputer today, but what's the market for it? It's not there yet."
He's right, the mainstream market doesn't really exist. But niches exist. Here is an example.
The Metropolis Center and the Q supercomputer, part of the National Nuclear Security Administration's tri-lab coalition of Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories, eventually will be able to expand beyond 100 teraflops, researchers said.
"We don't see a significant barrier, and we've announced plans for 200 teraflops," Los Alamos spokesperson Jim Danneskiold told NewsFactor.
Part of the planned growth of the US$215 million Q supercomputer, which is housed in a 43,500-square-foot facility, centers on a building designed to house additional mechanical and electrical equipment, such as a chiller, cooling towers, air-conditioning units, substations, power conditioners and transformers.
Yes, cooling is an issue, especially for these very large installations.
Source: Jay Lyman, NewsFactor Network, September 13, 2002
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