chapter  9
36 Pages

Roadrunner: The Dawn of Accelerated Computing

WithSriram Swaminarayan

Named for the state bird of New Mexico, Roadrunner was conceived by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and designed and built by IBM. In a lot of ways, Roadrunner could only have originated in LANL, which has an impressive series of firsts in supercomputing. Although LANL is world-famous for its HPC programs and expertise, it started modestly in the spring of 1943 when the Manhattan Project began secret operations in Los Alamos to develop the first atomic weapon. At a petascale, Roadrunner is providing critical resources for DOE mission and science applications. Roadrunner consists of a hybrid architecture of commodity server nodes with attached acceleration devices. The PowerXCell 8i chip used in Roadrunner is a slightly modified version of the Cell processor chip used in the Sony PlayStation. From a coding perspective, the Roadrunner hybrid architecture presents some unique challenges.