Japanese supercomputer breaks the petaflop barrier

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.

[Via Slashdot]