IBM Roadrunner retires from the supercomputer race

For all the money and effort poured into supercomputers, their lifespans can be brutally short. See IBM's Roadrunner as a textbook example: the 116,640-core cluster was smashing records just five years ago, and yet it's already considered so behind the times that Los Alamos National Laboratory is taking it out of action today. Don't mourn too much for the one-time legend, however. The blend of Opteron and Cell processors proved instrumental to understanding energy flow in weapons while also advancing the studies of HIV, nanowires and the known universe. Roadrunner should even be useful in its last gasps, as researchers will have a month to experiment with the system's data routing and OS memory compression before it's dismantled in earnest. It's true that the supercomputer has been eclipsed by cheaper, faster or greener competitors, including its reborn Cray arch-nemesis -- but there's no question that we'll have learned from Roadrunner's brief moment in the spotlight.