In June, Sequoia – an IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer – officially became the most powerful supercomputer in the world.
How powerful is Sequoia?
Newly installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California, it produces 16,32 petaflops of computation muscle. That’s more than 16 quadrillion calculations a second. Sequoia’s processing power is roughly equivalent to that of 2 million laptops.
What is Sequoia used for?
The US Department of Energy, which runs LLNL, has a mandate to maintain America’s nuclear weapons stockpile, so Sequoia’s primary mission is nuclear weapons simulations. But the DOE is also using computers such as Sequoia to help US companies do high-speed R&D for complex products such as jet engines and medical research. The goal is to help the country stay competitive in a world where industrial influence matters as much to national security as nukes do.
This video explains why Sequoia is a stepping stone on the way to exascale computing – machines that will be 50 times as fast as today’s fastest.
Sequoia was recognised in the Popular Mechanics 2012 Breakthrough Awards – an annual competition where we salute the greatest advances. Get your hands on PM’s Dec ’12 issue – on sale on 19 November – to find out about the best bold ideas of 2012.