June 19, 2002

There's a great promotional video on Cray's new line of supercomputeres here. The video is very interesting - among the facts is the average heat produced by the system: 45 watts per square centimeter! That is the processor heat - so for a kilo-processor system (i.e. one with 1000+ processors) we're talking tremendous power consumption. The computation power of the machine is enormous. They mention stat of 10 GFlops per processor (or was it board of 4) and a total system capability of 1024 of these boards meaning a total machine capability of 10 (or 40) TeraFlops. But of course THAT machine will consume insane amounts of power (.5 MW ? - sounds absurd but 1000 times 0.5 KW and you're there) Interestingly they're able to fit 16 4 processor boards in a single cabinet, so the largest machines will be 'only' 64 cabinets, which apart from the need for heat dissipation shouldn't consume too much space.

Need we mention that the estimated computational power of the brain is somewhere between 10^13 and 10^16 operations per second - so possibly 1000 times that of this new machine. And that the brain consumes about 25 watts of powerm so that energy efficiency of the brain compared to our present technology is 10^6 better or so. Room for improvement.

But - if we can keep inventing at Moore Law pace, the brain quality machine is only 10 years away. Add another 10 years to get decent power features for a single brain machine (and a high-power 'brainpower of a university' machine in research centers) and the world could be a very changed place as previously discussed by Bill Joy and Ray Kurzweil among others.

Posted by Claus at June 19, 2002 11:45 PM
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