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A new “Fastest Supercomputer” already? I don’t think so…

I came across a news item today from the ThaiIndian News with the following title:

World’s most powerful supercomputer becomes operational

The article continued with this detail:

The world’s fastest and most powerful supercomputer, named Novo-G, has become operational at the University of Florida.

I love super-computers and I always celebrate in my own way the crowning of a new super computer king.

This is especially true when they graduate from one thousandfold number crunching realm to another. Last year, IBM’s Roadrunner system did this when it was the first official computer to break through the the teraflop barrier into the domain of petaflops. This means that Roadrunner can make more than one quadrillion calculations per second allowing it to tackle previously unassailable physics problems and to more realistically simulate fiendishly complicated systems like the weather.

Usually it takes a while for a completely different supercomputer to leap-frog a new champion, but hey, what the hell, the sooner the better in my book.

The problem is…Novo-G is not the “fastest and most powerful super-computer”. So what’s going on?

My guess is that the author read that the Novo-G was ” the most powerful computer of its kind” and kind-of forgot to dig deeper on the “of its kind” bit.

This computer is the probably the most powerful Reconfigurable Computer in the world but that’s a far cry from what Roadrunner can do.

Regardless of this writer’s error, this is a nice advance and it could bode well for the future of reconfigurable computers. These computers can actually change the way their circuits are arranged on the fly in order to optimize it’s speed and power consumption for any given task.

This type of computer is a best-of-both-worlds approach to computing. Your PC is very flexible but it pays the price with slow performance and a lot of overhead in terms of space and energy. Special-purpose computers (like super-computers) are designed to perform specific tasks extremely well but they are not flexible at all.

If you want to read an article about this with all the juicy details (and an accurate title) go here.

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