The Never-ending Race For Fastest Supercomputer

IBM unveiled the world's fastest computer this week, the BBC reports. Blue Gene/P is three times faster than what is thought to be the fastest known computer -- Blue Gene/L, another IBM computer.

Blue Gene/P, which will go online later this year at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, comes packed with 1 petaflop, or the capability of processing 1,000 trillion calculations per second (100,000 times faster than a PC). The lab will use the supercomputer to research particle physics and nanotechnology. Researchers use Blue Gene/L to run simulated nuclear tests at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Blue Gene/P's reign as fastest supercomputer may be short-lived, however. Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is working on a computer with IBM codenamed Roadrunner, which will be able to run through 1.6 petaflops, according to the BBC report. And Sun Microsystems has unveiled Constellation, a 1.7 petaflop machine. Not to be outdone quite yet, however, Blue Gene/P can eventually be expanded to 3 petaflops, according to IBM.

Oh, and what makes all these computers so fast? It's the same processor technology found in the just-released PlayStation 3 game that your kids use.