RealTime IT News

IBM Grabs Top 3 on Supercomputing List

IBM scored something of a trifecta today when the Top500 supercomputing project revealed that Big Blue's machines take up three of the first 10 spots on the list.

Researchers for the Top500 group, a project started in 1993 to track trends in high-performance computing, released the 26th edition of the Top500 list at the Supercomputing Conference (SC05) in Seattle, Wash.

IBM's BlueGene/L supercomputer retained its chokehold on the top spot, thanks to its record speed of 280.6 trillion calculations per second

BlueGene/L, developed by IBM and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for safe nuclear weapons testing, has more than doubled in speed twice in the last year, up from 135.3 teraflops and 70.7 teraflops a year ago.

Big Blue's BlueGene/L has been No. 1 for the last three lists dating back to 2004 and will likely remain No. 1 for the next few lists because no other supercomputer has yet cracked the 100 teraflop barrier, Top500 researchers said in a statement.

Dave Turek, vice president of Deep Computing at IBM, said having the fastest systems on the Top500 list, while glamorous, is a byproduct of the company using its large research and development team to solve computing problems.

"We tend to want to make use of [our R&D]," Turek said. "The Watson Research Division [in, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., where most of the company's supercomputing work is done] is a national treasure in terms of how big it is and what its intrinsic capabilities are."

To wit, while IBM's Watson Blue Gene system again held the No. 2 spot at 91.29 teraflops, the next few slots on the top 10 list changed since the last list from June.

But the Armonk, N.Y. company's ASCI Purple system, based on IBM's p575 server, reached 63.4 teraflops to take the third slot, bumping the 51.87 teraflop Columbia system built by SGI to No. 4. IBM machines inhabited roughly 44 percent of the Top500 list.

Two new systems at DOE's Sandia's National Laboratories secured the No. 5 and 6 spots: The Dell PowerEdge 1850 Thunderbird system narrowly outperformed Cray's Red Storm system, 38.27 teraflops to 31.69 teraflops.

The NEC-built Earth Simulator, which at 35.86 teraflops had held the No. 1 position for five straight Top500 lists before being replaced by BlueGene/L last November, has slipped to No. 7.

IBM's MareNostrum JS20 Cluster and Astron eServer Blue Gene Solution took spots 8 and 9. No. 10 was captured by Cray's XT3 system at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The fact that four of the top 10 systems from the June 2005 Top 500 list were displaced by new systems, coupled with the stat that the last 221 systems from June 2005 are now too small to be included, demonstrates just how fast high-performance computing innovation is ramping up.

Intel chips reign again in HPC systems, with two-thirds of all 500 systems using the No. 1 chipmaker's silicon, including 81 with Intel's new EM64T-based processors.

IBM's Power processors inhabit 73 systems, but AMD's Opteron chips are gaining ground, with 55 systems using them compared to only 25 systems six months ago.