Don Grice is a confident man. The chief engineer on IBM's Roadrunner project told Computer World: "We will break the petascale barrier. The only unknown for me will be what day it is."
Right now, the petaflop is to the supercomputing race what the moon was to the Space Race. Current supercomputers measure performance in teraflops, and IBM along with Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Cray and Silicon Graphics are all competing to be the first to bust through to the petascale.
Roadrunner will go online soon at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, and will crunch all kinds of data such as nuclear weapons systems, climate changes and human genetics. It takes up 6,000 square feet, weighs 500,000 pounds total, uses 57 miles of cable and requires 3.9 megawatts of power.