IBM Dominates Supercomputer List

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Jun 24, 2005


IBM's Blue Gene machines held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the illustrious Top 500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers. Six of the top 10 world's fastest supercomputers are made by IBM. Intel chips and clusters are the top architectures.

No. 1 is BlueGene/L, which doubled in size since it was last crowned king in November. The machine now clocks in at 136.8 teraflops, or trillion calculations per second, according to the Top500 group. Supercomputer rankings are calculated with the Linpack benchmark.

When completed this fall, Blue Gene/L should approach top processing speeds of 360 teraflops, courtesy of a 64-rack system with more than 130,000 IBM PowerPC processors.

The machine is the love child of IBM and the National Nuclear Security Administration and resides at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Livermore, Calif.

The new No. 2 system boasts the same Power PC architecture but is smaller in size. The Watson Blue Gene system (BGW), topping 91.2 teraflops, contains 20 refrigerator-sized racks. It was recently installed at IBM's Thomas J.Watson Research Center in Yorktown, N.Y.

Half of the Top 10 systems on the November 2004 Top 500 list were displaced by new systems, and the last 201 systems on the list from last November are now too small to be listed.

For example, changes began at the No. 2 slot, with BGW replacing the Columbia system built by SGI and installed at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Calif. Columbia clocked in at 51.87 teraflops. Former top flight supercomputer Earth Simulator, made by NEC, fell to No. 4 with a top speed of 35.86 teraflops.

Often made up of a series of large machines, supercomputers are geared to handle advanced computational tasks, processing large amounts of data for high performance computing (HPC) applications.

HPC is popular in the sectors of life sciences, digital animation, financial modeling, quantum physics, space research and weather modeling research.

The Top 500 results were announced at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC2005) in Heidelberg, Germany. Several high-tech companies are attending the three-day event to demonstrate the computing prowess of their large machines.

Top 500 list authors, Hans Muerer, Jack Dongarra, Erich Strohmaier, and Horst D. Simon, said innovation and performance improvements are anything but slowing down.

IBM holds the fifth slot with its MareNostrum cluster, installed at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center in Spain and running at 27.91 teraflops. MareNostrum is powered by IBM's Power chips and BladeCenter JS20.

This machine ranks just barely ahead of No. 6, a Blue Gene system owned by ASTRON and installed at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. That machine posted speeds of 27.45 teraflops.

IBM is actually on a supercomputing tear, thanks to Blue Gene and its various other high-performance computing efforts. In addition to having six of the top 10 fastest supercomputers (all but one of which are Blue Genes), the company sucks up more than half of the Top 500 list. HP is second with about a quarter of the Top 500.

Overall, supercomputers are getting faster. Entry level for the Top 500 is now 1.166 teraflops, compared to 850.6 gigaflops six months ago. The last system on the June 2005 list would have been listed at position 299 in the previous Top 500.

In other trends, 333 systems are now using Intel processors. The second most commonly used processors are the IBM Power processors, powering 77 systems. Hewlett-Packard's PA RISC processors and AMD processors power 36 and 25 machines, respectively.

Also, 304 systems are considered clusters, far and away the most common architecture in the list. The U.S. uses more supercomputing machines or clusters than any other nation, with 294 of the 500 systems. Elsewhere, the number of systems in Asian countries other than Japan is rising steadily.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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