Computer

TeraFLOPS and Terabyte, what is the difference and why do people confuse them?

The launch of consoles Xbox series x and Playstation 5 it caused people to quickly compare its specifications. The datasheets for these consoles show the usual: Gigahertz for the CPU, Gigabytes for RAM, Terabytes for storage and TeraFLOPS to indicate the power of the GPU. You may be familiar with all these terms but, oddly enough, there are many people who confuse them and especially the digital confrontation between TeraFLOPS vs Terabyte, so below we will proceed to explain everything concisely.

As the size of the units used in computing grows, it is necessary to use different and, above all, larger quantities to cover these new dimensions. You may already be quite familiar with CPU clock speeds (measured in MHz or GHz) and RAM modules (measured in GB), but what about Terabytes and TeraFLOPS? Let’s dive into the technicalities a bit to find out.

TeraFLOPS vs Terabyte, how are they different?

The word TeraFLOPS consists of two terms: the prefix Tera- that comes from the international system and that indicates a factor of 10¹² (it also comes from the Greek and means “monster”, everything is said), and FLOPS which is an acronym of English that means Floating Point Operations Per Second (and that is why it is incorrect to speak of FLOP or TeraFLOP, without the “S” at the end) and that is translated as floating point operations per second, that is, it is It is a unit that measures computing capacity.

Imagine a processor doing calculations trillion (on the European scale, that is, a million million, not a billion as in the American one) of times per second: that is what TeraFLOPS are. In each calculation, the numbers are converted to floating point, processed and then reversed, giving the result.

For its part, the term Terabyte is much more familiar to almost all users because it is the most widely used unit of measurement today when we talk about storage devices, and is that unlike the TeraFLOPS that measure a computing capacity, the Terabyte measure storage capacity.

Returning to the fundamentals of computing, you will already know that data is stored as the ones and zeros of the binary system. Calculating a Terabyte is much simpler to explain than a TeraFLOPs, since each one or zero is called a bit, a byte consists of 8 bits and therefore a terabyte is a trillion bytes, which is equivalent to 8 trillion bits ( We repeat that we speak of billions on the international scale and not on the American one, so a trillion is a million million and not a billion).

You may not think much of a Terabyte especially since it is a term that you see and hear a lot; However, if each person on earth represented one bit, we would be talking about the population of the entire earth not reaching even 1 GB of information, which means that one Terabyte would equal more than 1,000 times the population of the Earth.

Why are they confused then? Both TeraFLOPS and Terabyte are two measurement units, and both start with the prefix Tera that we have explained before, but:

• TeraFLOPS (or a trillion floating point operations per second) refers to how many calculations a processor can handle in that period.
• Terabyte (or eight trillion bits) refers to the number of bits stored on storage devices.

Two terms where more is always better

Taking into account the amount of high definition audiovisual content that we handle today, both Terabyte and TeraFLOPS are two terms that have gained great importance in recent years, and although it may seem absurd that they can become confused, it can become understandable. In any case, both terms also share that the higher that figure, the better.

Currently, the storage space is finite, and as games have become increasingly complex and realistic, they require more and more space to save them. Thus, in the last 30 years, hard drives have gone from 1 GB to 1 TB, but at the same time games have gone from occupying 300 MB to 300 GB. Therefore, we can say that the capacity of the storage units has grown in line with the needs of the same in the industry, which is why we could currently say that we live in the era of the Terabyte.

At the moment having one or two Terabytes of storage space is enough for most users, but obviously the more space you have, the more you can store, including images, videos, music, games or whatever.

The same is true for TeraFLOPS in this regard; Since it is a unit that measures, in a way, the power of a processor, the more TeraFLOPS it has, the greater its computing capacity and therefore better performanceAlthough it is true that, as we have made denote many times, we cannot take TeraFLOPS as the standard unit of measurement to measure performance since it is a unit that only measures floating point operations and not other types of operations.

In this regard we must introduce yet another term, Megahertz or Gigahertz. This unit of measurement refers to the frequency with which the processor generates pulses, that is, how many ones and zeros it can handle in one second. In this way, a processor running at 5 GHz can handle 5 billion pulses in just one second. And, if this processor requires 10 pulses to process a FLOP, that means it can handle 500 million of these in just one second.

The GHz is simply the speed at which a processor can generate pulses, but it is not a final data of its performance either. The amount of TFLOPS that a CPU can handle is an indicator of power, but like TFLOPS alone, it is not the only one.

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