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February 25, 2009

The fastest computer ever built. Ever.

The new king of warehouse-sized supercomputers is to be built be IBM. A machine capable of performing twenty thousand trillion calculations every second. That's the processing power of 2 million laptops!

Today’s fastest supercomputers will seem sluggish in comparison, while past supercomputers will resemble working on a Commodore 64.

IBM's 'Sequoia' supercomputer as it has been named is being built for the US Government and is due to be installed in the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California in 2011.

According to IBM's website, given an entire day, the Sequoia could match the output that 120 billion men with calculators might achieve in 50 years. The company estimates that it will be more powerful than today’s 500 most powerful supercomputers combined, and 15 times faster than the fastest of their kind.

While previous supercomputers required warehouses the size of football fields, Sequoia will fit handily inside a large house. I guess there won't be much room to sleep. Its 1.6 million microprocessors will slot inside 96 refrigerator-sized racks, taking up no more than 3,422 square feet.

This is really exciting as this sort of advanced technology will filter down to us over the next 10 to 15 years. The thing that disappoints me is why Sequoia is being built - to perform the calculations and simulations required to test America’s nuclear stockpile. Go figure.

However, in its spare time it may be required to investigate the human genome, predict the possible outcomes of climate change, chart the path of tornados, discover new sources of energy and make me the perfect cup of tea... maybe not the tea thing, oh well, where's my kettle?

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