IBM leads supercomputer pack

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2006, 12:00am

IBM continues to dominate the global high-performance computing market, with more machines than any vendor ranked among the world's elite supercomputers and its BlueGene/L System claiming the undisputed No1 position.

Researchers expected that IBM system to remain unchallenged over the next few editions of the Top500 list of the world's fastest computers, following Wednesday's release of the latest rankings at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany.

The BlueGene/L System, a joint development of IBM and the United States Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has been No1 in the Top500 list since November 2004.

It has reached a Linpack benchmark performance of 280.6 teraflops - or trillions of calculations per second - and remains the only system to exceed the level of 100 teraflops. Global rankings are based on the Linpack benchmark, which measures processor speed and scalability.

The TOP500 list has been compiled twice a year since 1993 by researchers Hans Meuer of Germany's University of Mannheim, Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Centre at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

While some of the most ambitious supercomputing work still takes place in government and university laboratories, breakthroughs in new commercial markets - such as product design, simulation and animation, financial and weather modelling - is growing. Worldwide, many national and university labs use supercomputers in the areas of life sciences, hydrodynamics, quantum chemistry, molecular dynamics and space research.

Three of the 10 highest ranked supercomputers from the Top500 list in November were displaced by newly installed systems.

The largest system in Europe is the list's new No5, installed at the Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique in France. It is the Itanium processor-based NovaScale 5160 system built by French firm Bull with 8,704 processors and a Quadrics interconnect.

The largest system in Japan is a cluster-type supercomputer integrated by NEC and built with Sun Microsystems' Opteron chip-based Sun Fire X64 that has an Infiniband interconnect. It is installed at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and gained the No7 spot.

For the first time in the history of the TOP500 rankings, the top supercomputer in Japan was not manufactured in the country.

German research institute Forschungszentrum Juelich reached No8 with its new IBM BlueGene system, which is the second largest system in Europe and the largest BlueGene system outside the United States.

The NEC-built Earth Simulator, which has a Linpack benchmark performance of 35.86 teraflops and held the No1 position for five consecutive TOP500 lists before it was overtaken by BlueGene/L, slipped to No10.

Almost half, or 48.6 per cent, of the latest Top500 list consisted of IBM-brand supercomputers. In addition, four of the 10 highest-ranked systems are from IBM.

Hewlett-Packard remained firmly in second place, claiming 30.8 per cent of all systems in the Top500 list.

Intel microprocessors are at the heart of 301 of the 500 systems, with 118 of those using the semiconductor giant's EM64T chip.

The second most-commonly used processors were the IBM Power processors, with 84 systems in the Top500 list.

But the Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices are rapidly gaining ground, with 81 systems using them compared with only 25 systems a year ago.

Mr Simon said the US was the leading consumer of HPC systems with 298 systems in the Top500 systems.

The European share continued to decline with 83 systems, down from 100 six months ago. Asia mounted a turnaround with 93 systems, up from 66 in November.

Only supercomputers exceeding the 2.03 teraflops mark on the Linpack benchmark were qualified to make the list this time, compared with 1.17 teraflops a year ago. The last system on the latest Top500 list was listed at No 183 last year.

The entry level for the 10 highest-ranked supercomputers exceeded 35 teraflops and the entry point for the top 100 moved from 3.41 teraflops a year ago to 4.71 teraflops.

The new No3, the IBM pSeries 575 servers-based ASC Purple system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was upgraded in this year's list because its performance now reached 75.76 teraflops.

There are also 365 systems in the Top500 ranking described as clusters, making this the most common architecture in the list.

Top 10 performers

Rank Site Computer
DOE/NNSA/LLNL (US) BlueGene/L eServer Blue Gene Solution (IBM)
IBM Thomas J Watson Research Center (US) BGW eServer Blue Gene Solution (IBM)
DOE/NNSA/LLNL (US) ASC Purple eServer pSeries (IBM)

NASA/Ames Research Center/NAS (US) Columbia SGI Altix (SGI)
Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (France) Tera-10 NovaScale 5160 (Bull)
Sandia National Laboratories (US) Thunderbird PowerEdge 1850
GSIC Center, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan) TSUBAME Grid Cluster Sun Fire X4600 Cluster (NEC/Sun Microsystems)
Forschungszentrum Juelich (Germany) JUBL eServer Blue Gene Solution (IBM)
Sandia National Laboratories (US) Red Storm Cray XT3 (Cray)
The Earth Simulator Center (Japan) Earth-Simulator (NEC)