Yahoo! managed to sort 10 billion 100-byte elements in 209 seconds. This was done in Java using Hadoop.
As a basis for comparison, on a fast and recent Mac Pro, it takes 6000 seconds to sort a 2 GB text file using Unix file utilities. Yahoo!’s problem is 500 times larger, and they solve it 30 times faster : they are 4 orders of magnitude faster! Of course, they have fixed-length records which helps tremendously.
However, I wonder how much energy (power usage) was spent on the sort operation?