Upgrades, rookies join top supercomputing list

November 13, 2006 – A number of changes are apparent in the latest rankings of the world’s top supercomputers, ranging from geography to performance to who’s driving the architecture of the systems.

Retaining the top spot in the Top500 Supercomputers list is perennial favorite IBM BlueGene/L, installed at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, maintaining its Linpack performance of 280.6 Tflop/s (trillions of calculations per second). Rising from ninth place in the June 2006 rankings to second place is Sandia National Labs’ “Red Storm,” a Cray-based machine, joining BlueGene/L as the only supercomputers to exceed 100 Tflop/s (clocking in at 101.4 Tflop/s). The former No. 2, IBM’s eServer Blue Gene at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, slipped to third place (91.2 Tflop/sec).

Also new to the top 5 is Europe’s biggest machine, “MareNostrum,” an IBM JS21 cluster at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (62.63 Tfop/sec). Former No. 5, the “NovaScale 5160” at France’s Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique (CEA), slipped to No. 7.

Japan’s new largest system, coming in at No.9, is a cluster integrated by NEC, based on Sun Fire X4600 with Opteron processors. It is housed at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Holding onto the 10th position is another Cray system, the upgraded XT3 at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (43.48 Tflop/s), maintaining its position despite being more than doubled in processing power.

The new ranks also mark a historic turning point for the Top500 supercomputing list. Japan’s “Earth Simulator,” which topped the list for five years before being usurped by BlueGene/L in late 2004, has slipped out of the top 10, to No. 14.

Other facts and figures from the new supercomputing list:

– Total combined performance of all 500 systems on the list has grown to 3.54 petaflop/s, compared to 2.79 PFlop/s six months ago and 2.30 PFlop/s one year ago. The entry point for the top 100 increased in six months from 4.71 Tflops/s in June 2006 to 6.65 Tflop/s. The last system ? No. 500 ? on the latest list would have been listed at position 359 in the last TOP500 just six months ago. This is one of the smallest turnover rates seen in the history of the TOP500.

– A total of 261 systems (52.2%) are now using Intel processors, down from 333 (66.6%) one year ago. Meanwhile, AMD’s Opteron family has surpassed the IBM Power processors as the second most common processor family among the top supercomputers (113 systems, 22.6%), up from 55 systems/11% one year ago. A greater number, but fewer percentage overall, of these systems use IBM power processors — 93 systems now (18.6%), up from 73 systems (14.6%) in November 2005.

– Dual core processors are becoming widespread. Already, 75 systems use Opteron dual core processors, and 31 systems already use the new Intel Woodcrest dual core chips.

– The US is home to a leading 306 of the 500 systems, while Europe (95 systems, one-third of which are in the UK) again represents more customers than Asia (79 systems, 30 from Japan). China, notably, had 28 systems on the list six months ago, but now only has 18.

The TOP500 list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the U. of Mannheim/Germany; Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Jack Dongarra of the U. of Tennessee/Knoxville. The full list of the top 500 supercomputers, with lists and breakdowns by category including performance, architecture, and region, can be found at http://www.top500.org.


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