Most of us probably think of computer performance in terms of gigahertz and megahertz. In the world of supercomputers, performance is measured in flops, which is short for Floating Point Operations per Second. Today supercomputers are able to offer petaflops of performance, but by decades end supercomputers will be much faster aiming at the exaflop range.
The supercomputer pictured here is the Cray Jaguar and it is able to perform 1 million billion operations per second. The gigantic supercomputer takes up 5000 square feet and has been in use at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for years. Supercomputers by the end of the decade will be as powerful as 50 million laptop computers. Scientists and researchers say these exaflop supercomputers will usher in a new era of scientific discovery.
Exaflop supercomputers will be 1000 times faster than the fastest supercomputers today and will be able to perform 1 billion billion operations every second. The first machines capable of this sort of performance are expected to go online around 2020. The fastest supercomputer today is the Japan K computer and it is capable of 10 petaflops of performance. The machine uses 88,128 computer processors. Future exaflop machines are expected to have somewhere between 1 million and 100 million processors.