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Big Blue Colors Supercomputer List

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Call it “supercomputing smackdown.” Today, at the International Supercomputing Conference 2007 (ISC07) in Dresden, Germany, the Top500 group announced its latest list of the top 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world.

IBM takes top spot as well as the most installs on the Top500 list, while Cray, Dell and SGI make appearances in the top 10.

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To say it’s a competitive list would be an understatement. Few players can hold top spots long without constant improvements. With few exceptions, this latest list has seen a reshuffling since the last list was published last November.

If there is such a thing as a winner in such a competition, however, that would be IBM. Like last November, Big Blue held the top spot, with its Blue Gene/L – eServer Blue Gene Solution. In fact, IBM has taken that top spot four times running with the system deployed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“The Blue Gene/L System development by IBM and DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and installed at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., claimed the No. 1 spot,” the Top500 group announced Wednesday.

That system achieved a blazing benchmark performance of 280.6 teraflops (TFlops), which are trillions of floating point operations per second, running what’s called the Linpack benchmark.

The Top500 group noted that the point of the Linpack benchmark is “to solve a dense system of linear equations.”

Interestingly, IBM’s performance with the Power-based Blue Gene/L System was identical to its score in November 2006 and November 2005. IBM says the system’s theoretical performance is 360 TFlops.

Three other eServer Blue Gene systems made the top 10. Last November, IBM had only two of the systems on the list. A fifth IBM system, a BladeCenter JS21 cluster system located at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center in Spain, and also Power-based, came in at No. 9, down from the No. 5 spot last November.

If that weren’t enough, a sixth IBM system, an eServer pSeries p5 575, also made the top 10.

Despite such a strong showing, however, Big Blue didn’t completely dominate. Nor is it the only company whose supercomputers turned in TFlop performances.

AMD-powered Cray supercomputers too the No. 2 and No. 3 spots on the new list. Both beat the 100 TFlop barrier with more than 101 TFlops apiece. Cray held the No. 2 and No. 10 spots last time.

Intel chips are also represented in the top 10 supercomputing sites with systems from Dell in eighth place and SGI at 10.

Begun in 1993, this is the 29th Top500 list to be published. A lot has changed since then. As a matter of fact much has changed in just the last six months.

“The performance needed to make it onto the list increased to 4.005 TFlops, compared to 2.737 TFlop/s six months ago, [and] the system ranked [at] 500 on the current list would have held position number 216 only six months ago …. the largest turnover rate between lists in the Top500 project’s 15-year history,” a statement from the Top500 group said.

Trend-wise, despite only two Intel-based systems in the top 10, they continued to gain ground as the predominant high-performance computing (HPC) processor, with a nearly 58 percent share — 289 out of 500. That’s up from 52.5 percent last time.

AMD came in second with 21 percent, a decline from 22.6 percent in November, while IBM Power-based systems represent 17 percent, or 85 systems, down from 18.6 percent six months ago. Dual core processors, clusters, and Gigabit Ethernet all dominate, although InfiniBand usage is growing for system interconnections.

The United States is home to 281 of the 500 systems on the latest list, and European sites have grown to 127 systems (a jump from 95), while Asian sites dropped to 72 (a decline from 79). Of those, Japan has 23 and China has 13 of the Top500 systems. The United Kingdom currently has the most in Europe — 43 systems — and Germany is second with 24.

One significant indicator of how dynamic the HPC/supercomputing market is: “The average age of a system in the Top500 list is only 1 year and 2 months,” the group said. Also worthy of note, HP systems did not rank in the top 50, while IBM systems comprised 46 percent of the top 50.

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