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IBM Sits Atop Supercomputer List

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Nov 9, 2004


As expected, IBM took over the top slot on the Top500 supercomputing list with a BlueGene/L system that shatters previous Linpack benchmarks at 70.7 trillion floating points per second (teraflops). BlueGene/L impresses with a 70 teraflop machine, followed by SGI's Columbia system and the NEC Earth Simulator.

Second on the list, unveiled Monday at the Supercomputing 2004 conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., was the Columbia system built by SGI, which was installed at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Columbia rated 51.8 teraflops.

BlueGene/L and Columbia effectively allow the United States to reclaim the supercomputing reins from Japan's NEC, whose Earth Simulator has ruled the roost since 2002. At a performance of 35.86 teraflops, the Simulator had held the No. 1 position for five consecutive editions of the list and now holds the third slot.

The winning BlueGene/L is being used to test nuclear weapons degradation by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). Once completed in 2005, it will be moved to the DoE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. NASA is using Columbia for astronomy and physics.

The latest Top500 list is the 24th in the series from a group of authors that tests various high-performance computing machines for their ability to perform speedy, complex mathematical equations.

Government agencies and researchers for educational institutions are using supercomputers to meet challenges in nuclear defense, bioinformatics, climatology, and other important scientific fields.

While the Fortran-based Linpack benchmark is not the definitive test for computing performance -- no benchmark really is -- it is widely regarded by experts in the field.

Judging from the latest Top500 results, speed, not size, is the prevailing trend, with the number of systems exceeding the 1 teraflop mark vaulting from 242 to 399. More broadly, the total combined performance of all 500 systems on the list has exceeded the 1 petaflop mark.

Intel-based systems dominate the Top500 list, with 320 machines powered by the company's chips. IBM Power processors (54 systems) follow, ahead of HP's PA Risc processors (48) and AMD processors (31).

In other results, IBM nabbed the fourth spot with the MareNostrum cluster installed at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, while California Digital Corp.'s Thunder supercomputer fell to the fifth spot from No. 2.

HP's ASCI Q came in sixth, followed by Apple Computer's "SuperMac," which was used at Virginia Tech, at No. 7. Another BlueGene/L from IBM marks the eighth most powerful computing machine according to Linpack, chased by yet another IBM system, the eServer pSeries 655 cluster.

Dell's Tungsten PowerEdge 1750 cluster for The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) rounds out the top 10 machines.

The complete Top500 list is available here.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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