CWmike writes "Every June and November a new list of the world's fastest supercomputers is revealed. The latest Top 500 list marked the scaling of computing's Mount Everest — the petaflops barrier. IBM's 'Roadrunner' topped the list, burning up the bytes at 1.026 petaflops. A computer to die for if you are a supercomputer user for whom no machine ever seems fast enough? Maybe not, says Richard Loft, director of supercomputing research at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. The Top 500 list is only useful in telling you the absolute upper bound of the capabilities of the computers ... It's not useful in terms of telling you their utility in real scientific calculations. The problem with the rankings: a decades-old benchmark called Linpack, which is Fortran code that measures the speed of processors on floating-point math operations. One possible fix: Invoking specialization. Loft says of petaflops, peak performance, benchmark results, positions on a list — 'it's a little shell game that everybody plays. ... All we care about is the number of years of climate we can simulate in one day of wall-clock computer time. That tells you what kinds of experiments you can do.' State-of-the-art systems today can simulate about five years per day of computer time, he says, but some climatologists yearn to simulate 100 years in a day."
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