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A Computer for the Clouds

A proposed supercomputer would do just one job--model global climate--but consume far less electricity than a general-purpose machine

3 min read

In May an IBM-built supercomputer called Roadrunner crunched through a quadrillion floating-point operations per second, officially becoming the first supercomputer to break the petaflop barrier. But unofficially, that barrier had fallen two years before, when MDGRAPEâ''3, a machine at Japan's Riken Institute, in Wako, powered up. Accepted benchmarking methods ruled out that performance because MDGRAPE-3 is a purpose-built computer, able to model molecular interactions and little else. Yet the machine cost Riken just oneâ''tenth of Roadrunner's price--more than US$100million--and consumes just one-tenth the power.

That power-saving potential is convincing many people who have belittled special-purpose machines to give them a second look. Electricity already accounts for more than half the lifetime cost of owning and operating a supercomputer--or any large server farm, for that matter--and power's share is expected to increase.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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