(j3.2006) illusive exaflops

Van Snyder Van.Snyder
Tue Feb 22 19:59:26 EST 2011

On Mon, 2011-02-21 at 14:47 -0800, Jerry Wagener wrote:
> In the 80's for instance, for most of the decade we tracked the
> fastest computers in megaflops, and it was big news when the first
> gigaflops computer appeared. As I recall in the late 90's we were
> anticipating the amazing advent of the first teraflops computer. And
> now, according to the article, the fastest computer is about 5
> petaflops. So for the past 3 decades we've roughly, on-average,
> doubled the top computing speed each year (10**6 to 10**15). That's
> even faster than Moore's Law. Amazing. 
> But, alas, the article points out that some tough physical limits are
> raising their ugly heads which look like this era may be coming to an
> end, and with it DARPA's hopes for an exaflops computer by 2015 may
> not be realized. Though I'm reminded of the saying that somebody
> saying something's impossible is usually interrupted by somebody doing
> it. Anyway, for an old out-of-touch Fortran geezer it was an
> interesting read.

At JPL last year, there was a talk by an IBM fellow from the University
of Kansas (whose name I have forgotten).  He had a contract from DARPA
to address the question of power consumption.  He looked at computing
from the gate level, asking how many joules are required per operation.
DARPA wants their exaflop computer to use less than 38 MW.  The result
of the study is that with current technology or that foreseen for the
reasonably near future, it can't be done for less than 60 MW.

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