Cray Jaguar Takes Top Supercomputer Spot from IBM Roadrunner

After more than a year as the world's fastest supercomputer, IBM's Roadrunner system was knocked down to the second spot by Cray's Jaguar. Cray's XT5 system got a boost when the computer maker swapped out the quad-core AMD Opterons for the six-core "Istanbul" chips, ramping up the power to more than 224,000 processing cores. Sun and SGI also were represented in the top 10 of the Top500 list of the fastest systems.

IBM's reign atop the list of the world's fastest supercomputers is over, with Cray's "Jaguar" system knocking off Big Blue's "Roadrunner" after more than a year as number one.

The Top500 list of the most powerful systems kicks off the Supercomputer 2009 show in Portland, Ore., which will run until Nov. 20.

With Roadrunner, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as the Blue Gene predecessor, IBM had a run of more than five years at the top of the list. Cray's Jaguar-a Cray XT5 supercomputer running at the Oak Ridge National Labs-had spent more than a year in the number-two slot before knocking off Roadrunner with a performance of 1.75 petaflops, or quadrillions of floating point operations per second. Roadrunner, which had a top performance of 1.105 petaflops in June, recorded a processing speed of 1.04 petaflops for the list, compiled by the group.

Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray, said that while he was happy Jaguar had finally leapt into the top spot on the list, he was equally proud that it did so while being an important tool in scientific research.

"Sustained performance is what matters to us most," Ungaro said in a statement. "We design all of our supercomputing systems to excel on scientific and engineering user applications, rather than low-level benchmark tests, because that is what is most important for our customers."

Jaguar received a significant performance boost when Cray replaced the quad-core Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices with AMD's six-core "Istanbul" chips, giving the system more than 224,000 processing cores.

Another Cray XT5 system-"Kraken," at the National Institute for Computational Sciences-jumped into the number three slot.

Along with Roadrunner, IBM also had three other systems in the top 10, while Sun Microsystems supercomputers held two places and SGI grabbed one position in the top 10. Also included on the list was a Chinese system, the Tianhe-1, NUDT, at the National SuperComputer Center in Tianjin.

The list also showed the continuing influence of x86 processors in supercomputing. AMD officials pointed out that five of the top 10 systems-including the top three-are powered by the company's Opteron chips, overall, 42 of the top 500 are AMD-powered systems.

Roadrunner uses a combination of Opteron chips and IBM's own Cell B/E processors.

In a conference call with reporters Nov 13, John Fruehe, AMD's director of product marketing for Opteron, said the processor's presence in half of the top 10 supercomputers is an indication of the company's growing influence in the space.

However, rival Intel had the lion's share of the Top500 list, with 402 of the supercomputers on the list being powered by Intel Xeon processors.

In addition, both Intel and AMD are looking to add to the capabilities of their processors, which officials said could drive up their respective companies' influence in the supercomputing space.

Intel in the first half of 2010 will release a version of its upcoming "Nehalem EX" chip optimized for HPC (high-performance computing). The six-core HPC-optimized version will run faster than the mainstream eight-core versions of the chip, according to Intel, and will offer other advantages for supercomputing.

AMD in early 2010 will release its "Maranello" Opteron platform, which will feature the "Magny-Cours" chips that will have from eight to 12 processing cores.