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AMD Project 47 Supercomputer 2017 VS IBM Roadrunner 2007


AMD unveiled a landmark achievement with its new supercomputer the size of one single server rack. The data centre just got smaller and more affordable for those interested in machine learning and advanced AI.

Many years ago, 2007 to be precise, AMD collaborated with IBM to create what was known as the “Roadrunner”. The Roadrunner was a supercomputer designed to break the 1 petaflop barrier. The cost of the system was approximately $100 million. The system took almost 6000 square feet of floor space to work in. This amounted to just under 300 full size racks. The supercomputer became the fastest in 2007 by using over 6,000 AMD dual-core Opteron processors, 12,960 IBM PowerXCell CPUs and did I mention at a cost of $100 million. Lisa Su, CEO and president of Advanced Micro Devices, gave a presentation and small demo which is available on

The new Project 47 supercomputer in comparison is only a single rack. The amount of floor space saved is in the 99th percentile. The rack consists of the latest technology including 80 MI25 GPUs from AMD’s new Radeon Instinct line-up of high-end machine learning graphics cards. The rack also contains AMD’s new EPYC 7000 series CPUs, 20 in total with the model being the highest end available, “AMD EPYC 7601”. The rack also contains 20 Mellanox 100G cards which are Gigabit Ethernet Adapters used for inter-connectivity between components. Finally, the rack also contains 10TB of Samsung DDR4 memory.


1 petaflop may not seem significant in recent times with IBM planning a 200 petaflop supercomputer for 2018 to rival China’s 93 petaflop supercomputer called the Sunway TaihuLight already in existence.

The aim of Project 47 wasn’t to break the current record being held by Sunway TaihuLight but to offer a cheaper alternative to smaller organisations. The one rack system also comes with other notable benefits to the future of datacentres. Quoted as “beautiful” by Lisa T Su of AMD, Project 47 is quoted as being “25% more efficient than competing supercomputing platforms” which would make great sense for smaller data centres and organisations looking to get into machine learning. The original cost of the IBM Roadrunner was $100 million and you can expect to get the same performance at a considerably lower price as well as saving floor space at the same time.

Project 47 showcases the advancements in technology that have been made as well as AMDs focus on future markets. The real question will be the cost to many potential investors and that is something that still remains a mystery. AMD is predicted to provide pricing by the end of the year for those interested in advanced AI.

Linus from LinusTechTips was able to get a first-hand look at Project 47 by helping build the display model presented at SIGGRAPH 2017 by Lisa Su.

A Rokib