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By Committee on the Future of Supercomputing, National Research Council

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For a larger set of applications with low locality, custom processors deliver better time to solution but at a higher cost per unit of sustained performance. Commodity processors are often criticized because of their low efficiency (the fraction of peak performance they sustain). However, peak performance, and hence efficiency, is the wrong measure. The system metrics that matter are sustained performance (on applications of interest), time to solution, and cost. 1,2 Custom processors differ primarily in the effective memory bandwidth that they provide on different types of access patterns.

Chapter 9 describes the role of the government in ensuring that supercomputing appropriate to our needs is available both now and in the future. Chapter 10 contains the committee’s conclusions and recommendations for action to advance high-end computing. Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. html 2 Explanation of Supercomputing T he term “supercomputer” refers to computing systems (hardware, systems software, and applications software) that provide close to the best currently achievable sustained performance on demanding computational problems.

Melbourne, June. 2S. Goedecker and A. Hoisie. 2001. Performance Optimization of Numerically Intensive Codes. : SIAM Press. 3The IBM Power 4 has a 512-byte level 3 cache line. 4This categorization of applications is not immutable. Since commodity systems are cheaper and more broadly available, application programmers have invested significant effort in adapting applications to these systems. Bandwidth-intensive applications are those that are not easily adapted to achieve acceptable performance on commodity systems.

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