City's supercomputer ranking slips

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 12:00am

Hong Kong has slipped down the ranks of markets running the industry's fastest supercomputers, according to the latest survey of the top 500 systems worldwide.

An IBM supercomputer installed last November at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) was the only high-performance system from the city to make the list, released earlier this month by a group of researchers.

That number was down from four last June, when supercomputers at Hutchison Telecom, Baptist University and an undisclosed financial institution in the city were among the world's top-performing systems.

The HKU machine - made up of a cluster of 128 IBM eServer x335 servers, powered by 256 Pentium 4 Xeon processors at 2.8-gigahertz each - was ranked No 308 this year from No 240 last June. It is Hong Kong's fastest supercomputer.

HKU Computer Centre director Nam Ng said the ranking showed the university's efforts in a wide range of research in molecular physics, quantum chemistry and mathematics.

The HKU supercomputer is being used by university engineers in projects that include simulating real-time traffic conditions for congested highways, analysis of tall building structures, three-dimensional analysis of brittle materials to determine potential nuclear waste disposal sites, and testing a nationwide grid computing initiative with mainland universities.

Mr Ng said the decline in the number of Hong Kong supercomputer sites ranked in the top 500 list came at a time when the mainland was increasing its deployment of these high-performance computing systems.

'But I think that it is difficult to compare the large number of supercomputer applications in the mainland with the number that we do in Hong Kong,' he said. 'Consider that we have eight government-funded universities, while the mainland has well over 800 universities.'

Fourteen supercomputers in the mainland were in the top 500 list this year, up from nine last November. In addition to foreign-made systems from IBM and Hewlett-Packard, this group included supercomputers made by three mainland firms - Dawning Information Industry, Lenovo and Langchao - and one built by Shenzhen University computer scientists.

The Dawning 4000A, installed at the Shanghai Supercomputer Centre, is the first Chinese-made high-performance computing system to enter the top 10.

'With the scale of the mainland's population and its industries, I am sure we will see a lot more Chinese supercomputers make the top 500 list in the future,' Mr Ng said.

Five Taiwan-based supercomputers made the list this month, the same number as last November. The island's fastest supercomputer is an HP Integrity system that was installed this year at the National Centre for High-Performance Computing.

The top 500 list is released twice a year by researchers at the Universities of Tennessee in the United States and Mannheim in Germany, and at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Centre/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The list ranks supercomputers based on the Linpack benchmark, which measures processor speed and scalability.

Supercomputers in Japan and the US continue to dominate the top 10 this year.

Although the number of supercomputer sites in Asia has increased to 89, Europe is still ahead of the region with 124 systems in the top 500.