Japan, which once topped the list of world's fastest supercomputers with NEC's Earth Simulator, has seen its position deteriorate in recent years in the face of faster machines like IBM's 280-teraflop BlueGene/L
. Well now it looks like a new Japanese rig is poised to regain the top of the charts, and the most amazing thing about Riken's MDGrape-3 -- besides its claimed 1 petaflop performance -- is the fact that it cost only $9 million to build, giving it a per-gigaflop pricetag of just $15 (compared to the $140/gigaflop cost of IBM's top dog). Developed in conjunction with Hitachi, Intel, and NEC subsidiary SGI Japan, MDGrape-3 is being tasked with helping the pharmaceutical industry model new drugs, as it can calculate the chemical bonding properties of a proposed drug-protein combo in mere seconds. While BlueGene/L contains a whopping 130,000 processors distributed over 65,000 nodes, Riken's closet-sized machine needs only 4,808 chips to achieve four times its speed for certain applications. Oh, and despite the impressive-sounding performance, due to the specialized nature of its design, its unlikely that you'll see MDGrape-3 rocking a game of Doom anytime soon.