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Energy inefficiency brings an end to 2008's record-breaking Roadrunner supercomputer

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The fastest supercomputer of 2008 is being decommissioned today after setting record-breaking speeds five years ago. The IBM-built Roadrunner was the first machine to reach the notable performance target of 1 sustained petaflops — equivalent to one million billion calculations per second. Though the machine is still one of the faster computers in the world, its power consumption is making it obsolete. The next-fastest supercomputer nearly matches Roadrunner's speeds with only about one-fifth of the energy consumption, making Roadrunner comparably too expensive to operate.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, the institution that houses Roadrunner, noted in a statement that future supercomputers will need a focus on power efficiency so that running them can be affordable. Though Los Alamos is citing operational cost, Roadrunner would still be useful if it weren't for the significant performance increases seen in other machines over the past five years. The Titan supercomputer built last year is capable of 17.59 sustained petaflops, albeit with higher energy usage. Though Roadrunner is being decommissioned today, the machine will be used for an additional month for experiments that may help the development of future supercomputers.