Life-sciences computing scored well in the latest listing of the world's speediest supercomputers. IBM's Blue Gene/L series found two spots in the top 10 rankings.
Life-sciences computing made headway in the TOP500 Projects latest listing of the worlds fastest supercomputers, announced on Sunday at the International Supercomputer Conference in Heidelberg, Germany.
This summers list kept the Earth Simulator, built by NEC Corp., in the top spot. But two of IBM Corp.s Blue Gene prototypes, developed to solve biological problems, are now ranked in the top 10.
The list is based on a semi-annual survey run by the TOP500 Project, which is sponsored by the German University of Mannheim, the Innovative Computing Laboratory at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in Berkeley, Calif.
IBMs Blue Gene/L DD1 came in at No. 4, and the Blue Gene/L DD2, grabbed the No. 8 spot. The DD1 system uses over 8,000 PowerPC 440 processors and takes up about as much space as four refrigerators, considerably smaller than other supercomputers. It has a peak speed of 16 teraflops and a sustained speed of 11.68 teraflops.
In the November list, an earlier version of the Blue Gene system ranked 73rd. And the current system is operating at less than one fifteenth of its planned capacity, according to a statement by IBM.
A Blue Gene model will likely displace the Earth Simulator as the top supercomputer a year from now, perhaps sooner, predicted the compilers of the list.
The Blue Gene project was first designed to model protein folding, or the process by which proteins achieve their intricate, three-dimensional shapes, an in-silico task that has long been a holy grail of academics and the drug industry.
Already, a Blue Gene system is being used to study how a particularly important class of proteins fold, important information for asthma, cancer and inflammation research, as well as for cardiovascular and mental health diseases.
However, IBM believes Blue Gene has potential beyond the tough task it was designed for. The company will aim the system at applications such as online search engines, geologic simulations, financial market modeling and risk analysis.
While aimed at genomics, IBM recently sold a Blue Gene/L supercomputer for astrophysical calculations. Click here to read more.
For the first time, less-expensive cluster computers were the most common architecture in the TOP500 list. Over half, or 287, of the systems run processors from Intel Corp.
The rest of the list continues to be dominated by IBM Corp., with nearly 45 percent of systems, and Hewlett-Packard Co., taking about a 2 percent share.
The sites with the top ten supercomputer systems, the manufacturers of the machines, and their processors, as measured by the TOP500 survey:
Monya Baker is co-editor of CIOInsight.com's Health Care Center. She has written for publications including the journal Nature Biotechnology, the Acumen Journal of Sciences and the American Medical Writers Association, among others, and has worked as a consultant with biotechnology companies. A former high school science teacher, Baker holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Carleton College and a master's of education from Harvard.