(IBM's BigGene supercomputer)
have been around since the 1960s, at first powered by esoteric processors. Today they are run by the kind of multi-core CPUs found in common servers.
According to the TOP500 list, the fastest computer in the world as of Nov. 12 was the Cray XK7, which uses 16-core AMD Opteron processors.
But despite advances in CPUs, optical networking and other tricks, high performance computers have a weakness: Their size.
Simply put, the more components in a supercomputer the greater the odds something will break.
At the recent SC12 conference researchers discussed this problem, which is only going to get worse.