A petaflop…what’s a petaflop? That might be the questions that you’re asking yourself if you’re not a technologically minded person. A petaflop means that a computer is running one thousand trillion calculations per second. For those who do like to keep up with technology, a petaflop is a term you wouldn’t think would be reality around ten years ago. IBM has taken the ‘computing impossible’ and has made it possible.

The “Roadrunner” is the name of the computer performing at petaflop speeds, and is now the fastest super computer on Earth. What’s really funny, is that the computer is using components that are utilized by the PS3 (so now all you Sony fanboys have something to rant about). The computer will eventually be sent to a US government laboratory to monitor nuclear stockpiles.

The components that are really driving the technology behind Roadrunner is ‘cell chip design’. If you’re a PS3 owner, than you know about the cell microprocessors that run the machine. Basically cell processors bridge the gap between conventional processors (desktop, notebook processors), and more highly specialized processors (graphics cards). The second fastest super computer runs about 480 teraflops (significantly lower than a petaflop), using about 212,000 processors. While the petaflop running Roadrunner only uses 20,000 processors.

This ‘cell’ technology is being heralded as one of the largest advancements in recent computing history. It will be interesting to see what other commercial advancements besides the PS3, that cell technology can be used for.