Clustered Supercomputers Gain On Big Iron in Top500 List

According to the latest "Top500" rankings of the world's supercomputers, IBM's BlueGene/L cluster is ranked as the fastest on the market.

Clustered supercomputers eked out a majority over traditional big iron in Mondays "Top500" rankings of the worlds fastest supercomputers. IBMs BlueGene/L took the top spot, followed by NASAs "Columbia" cluster.

The semiannual Top500 directory is a joint project of the University of Mannheim, in Germany; the University of Tennessee; and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. Lawrence-Berkeley National Laboratory. Although the test uses a single benchmark to determine the rankings, researchers say that the test is a good measurement of computing trends.

/zimages/6/28571.gifOther benchmarks have emerged in the supercomputing space to provide a more comprehensive look at performance. Click here to read more.

Two supercomputers from the United States ended up on top: IBMs BlueGene/L, a partnership between the Department of Energy and IBM, recorded a maximum score of 70.2 teraflops, a feat the company tipped earlier. When finally completed in 2005, the system—which uses 32,768 specially modified IBM 0.7GHz PowerPC 440 chips—will deliver performance in the 200-teraflop range, IBM said.

The company on Monday said it will offer the Blue Gene architecture to a wider audience. At the SC2004 supercomputing show in Pittsburgh, IBM said the commercial version will be called the eServer Blue Gene.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about IBMs forthcoming eServer Blue Gene.

The first runner-up, NASAs "Columbia" supercomputer, is made up of 10,240 Intel Itanium 2 "Madison 9M" processors. It recorded a score of 51.87 teraflops.

Rounding out the top five were the Earth Simulator computer, built by NEC Corp. and housed in Yokohama, Japan, and the Barcelona Supercomputer Centers "MareNostrum" system, which recorded speeds of 35.86 teraflops and 20.53 teraflops, respectively. MareNostrum comprises a cluster of 3,564 2.2GHz PowerPC 970s. The "Thunder" cluster of 4,096 1.4GHz Itanium 2s at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., recorded a score of 19.94 teraflops.

The much-publicized "Big Mac" home-brewed cluster built from 1,100 dual 2GHz Apple Computer Inc. Xserves at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) now ranks seventh on the list, formerly in third position.

In all, 296 systems are labeled in the list as clusters, compared to monolithic machines.

Erich Strohmaier, one of the lists compilers and a researcher at the NERSC-Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, of Berkeley, Calif., said the list indicates that the supercomputer market now being governed by economics as much as anything else.

In addition, 17 systems on the list now can be found in China, an indication that the region considers supercomputing a priority.

"Japan, however, is decreasing, a reflection of the economic situation in Japan," Strohmaier said. The U.S. is still the geographic leader, with 267 spots on the list.

"In general trends, IBM is still clearly leading the list, followed by HP," Strohmaier added. IBM and Hewlett-Packard Corp. sold 215 and 173 systems, respectively. "Its almost a two-player game, followed by a few specialty companies."

Intel-based systems made up 320 spots on the list, up from 287 spots in the survey in the spring. A year ago, there were 189 Intel-based supercomputers.

The current TOP500 list was compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany; Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

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