What? Only 25 MB of storage per core?

An article in wired tells us that Sun recently designed a crazy computer which will be, for a time, the most powerful computer in the world. It will have

  • 62,976 CPU cores;
  • 125 terabytes of memory;
  • 1.7 terabytes of disk space.

It will cost one million dollars per year in electricity bills to keep humming.

I do not have all the facts, but I am pretty certain this machine exceeds human capacity in every respect.

What I find odd is that the machine has very little disk space compared to its computational power. Of course, these numbers are misleading as there will probably be plenty of available disk space, but it will probably be outside the core of the machine.

They seem to predict that this sort of monster will soon be common. I make the opposite prediction. We are reaching the end of an era in the computational sciences. Wasting a million dollars a year in electricity bills is quite probably not sustainable unless you do something incredibly useful that cannot be done another way. They will have to find a way to achieve the same results by using much less power.

Yes, we will all have terabytes of storage and hundreds of CPU cores at our disposal soon, but only if it does not require large electricity bills. Generating that much heat, because electricity does turn into heat, just does not make sense.

Also, I make the prediction that we will build machines with far more storage space in the future.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

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