Free-space optics help old computers learn new tricks
By John Boyd
The speed of high-performance computing has soared from around 100 gigaflops in 1993 to over 50 petaflops today and is on course to hit the long-sought exascale(1018 floating-point operations per second) mark in the 2020s. Yet this remarkable supercomputing progress can be something of a super nightmare for the institutes and government agencies asked to invest the hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars that leading systems can cost.
“We are achieving a 1,000[-fold] improvement over 10 years, so after just 5 years a conventional supercomputer is no longer able to perform (at the necessary standard) and has to be trashed,” says Michihiro Koibuchi, a systems architect at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, in Tokyo. Koibuchi and his colleagues think they have a solution that will let users get more out of older machines: free-space optics, lasers that link supercomputer nodes through the air …..[Read more]