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Top500 supercomputers: HP wins on share, IBM on performance

Although U.S. supercomputers dominate the latest list, their share is declining

June 27, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - IBM's BlueGene/L remains the T-Rex of the supercomputing universe, but the company is no longer the top seller of systems represented on the Top500 Supercomputing Sites list. Hewlett-Packard Co. can now claim that title.

IBM is responsible for 192 systems, or 38.4%, on the biannual list, which was updated today, but HP has at 202 or 40.4%. A year ago, IBM had 239 systems on the list -- or nearly 48% -- and HP had 156, or 31%

In terms of the most powerful machines, IBM didn't have to pump up its BlueGene/L at U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to maintain its lead. Its Linpack benchmark performance of 280.6 trillion floating-point operations per second (TFLOPS) is more than double the performance of its closest competitors, and exactly the same as IBM reported one year ago today. This is IBM's fourth straight time at the top of the ranking.

But what makes the latest Top500 list particularly interesting are the trends represented by the broader pool of users populating the standings.

Use of Intel Corp. processors is up: 289, or nearly 58%, of the supercomputers on the list have Intel chips. Six months ago, 261, 52.5%, of the systems used Intel processors.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Opteron chip has the No. 2 spot, with 105 of the systems, 21% of the total. But that's down from 113 systems, or 22.6%, six months ago.

Those concerned about U.S. competitiveness should take note: A year ago, the U.S. had 298 of the 500 systems, it now has 281. The No. 2 geographic region is Europe, with 127 systems. That's up from 83 a year ago.

Supercomputing users, who are typically relentless about upgrading, are moving as quickly as they can to dual-core processors. Dual-core chips are now the dominant processor architecture, and in six months alone the number of systems using Intel's Woodcrest chip jumped from 31 to 205. AMD's Opteron is also growing more popular: 90 systems are now using AMD's dual-core product, up from 75 six months ago.

InfiniBand technology is also gaining and is now used in 127 systems, up from 78 systems six months ago.

Even though IBM has the performance lead, the rest of the pack is gaining ground. There are now two other systems over 100 TFLOPS: the upgraded Cray XT4/XT3 at the DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which ranked No. 2 with a benchmark performance of 101.7 TFLOPS; and the Sandia National Laboratory's Cray Red Storm system, which ranked third at 101.4 TFLOPS.

The Top500 list debuted in 1993 and is independently compiled by computer researchers Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim in Germany, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Read more about High Performance Computing in Computerworld's High Performance Computing Topic Center.

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