According to Moore's LAW it should take 15 years to get a computer 500 times faster than the two fastest supercomputers in the world, an IBM machine at Lawrence Livermore and a INTEL one at Los Alamos; however today IBM announced they will spend $100,000,000 make a machine of that power in just 5 years. This will be called "Blue Gene" and will be specially designed to do one thing, not play chess but solve the awesomely complex protein folding problem. IBM thinks there is lots of money to be made in analyzing the huge amount of data that will come from the Human Genome Project, I think it could also be used to design nano machines.
To achieve these blistering speeds a radically new computer architecture must be used that has 1,048,576 processors. IBM will develop a new chip that contains 32 processors as well as lots of on chip memory but has only 57 machine level instructions compared with about 200 for most RISC machines. A great deal of effort will also go into making an operating system that is more fault tolerant than anything now in existence, if one of the processors or even an entire chip malfunctions the supercomputer will not die, it will just slow down very slightly. They also intend to improve algorithms so that even a machine this fast doesn't take an unreasonable amount of time to provide a 3D image of a protein from an amino acid sequence.
John K Clark firstname.lastname@example.org