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The U.S. Is Super #1 Again

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted June 18, 2012


After nearly three years outside of the top spot, the U.S once again reigns supreme atop the rankings of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers.

The TOP500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers was released this morning, ranking the Linux-powered IBM Sequoia as the top computer, coming in at 16.32 petaflops per second. Sequoia is an IBM BlueGene/Q system powered by 1,572,864 compute cores and installed at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The same IBM BlueGene/Q system only had 65,536 cores in November of 2011, which was good enough to rank it as number 11 at that time. Japan's K Computer has now fallen to the number 2 slot, retaining its 705,024 core configuration, delivering the same 10.51 petaflops per second that it had in November. TOP500 SupercomputersWhile the K Computer has fewer cores and less petaflop performance, it consumes more electrical power than Sequoia. The Sequoia consumes 7,890.0 KW, while the K consumes 12,659.9 KW.

The U.S now also holds down the number three slot with the IBM Mira BlueGene/Q system, which is installed at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Lab and delivers 8.12 petaflops per second. Rounding out the top five are the IBM-built SuperMUC in Germany, at the number four spot with 2.9 petaflops per second, and in the fifth spot, China's Tianhe-1A, which delivers 2.6 petaflops per second.

Looking across the spread of the top 500 supercomputers in the world illuminates some interesting trends. The majority of the systems (74.4 percent) currently run on Intel CPUs, while AMD processors represent 12.6 percent and IBM Power processors come in at 11.6 percent.

While IBM processors don't dominate the field, overall IBM tech does. 42.6 percent of supercomputers on the TOP500 list for June 2012 were built by IBM. HP's share comes in at 28.2 percent.

Who's Winning the InfiniBand vs. Ethernet Battle?

Another key trend highlighted by the TOP500 list is the continued battle between InfiniBand and Ethernet as an interconnect for supercomputer systems. InfiniBand connects 209 supercomputers for a 41.8 percent share of the TOP500 list, while Ethernet powers 207 machines for a 41.4 percent share. Though InfiniBand's edge over Ethernet is a small one, InfiniBand vendor Mellanox has been quick to celebrate their lead.

"InfiniBand becoming the most used interconnect on the TOP500 is a significant milestone and achievement for Mellanox," Eyal Waldman, president, chairman and CEO of Mellanox Technologies said in a statement. "We believe InfiniBand surpassing Ethernet in high-performance computing is a forward-looking sign that it will also become the interconnect of choice for cloud and Web 2.0 data centers, as they are all based on similar architecture concepts."

While there are differing views on CPUs and interconnects across the TOP500, when it comes to operating systems the trend is a lot clearer. On the June 2012 list, Linux dominates the operating system landscape, with 462 machines for a 92.4 percent share.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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