IBM’s Blue Gene Tops Supercomputer List

IBM’s Blue Gene machines held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the illustrious
Top 500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

No. 1 is BlueGene/L, which doubled in size since it was last crowned king in
November. The machine now clocks in at 136.8 teraflops , or
trillion calculations per second, according to the Top500 group. Supercomputer rankings are calculated with the Linpack benchmark.

When completed this fall, Blue Gene/L should approach top processing speeds
of 360 teraflops, courtesy of a 64-rack system with over 130,000 IBM PowerPC

The machine is the love child of IBM and the
National Nuclear Security Administration and resides at the Lawrence
Livermore National Lab in Livermore, Calif.

The new No. 2 boasts the same Power PC architecture but is smaller in size.
The Watson Blue Gene system (BGW), topping 91.2 teraflops, is comprised of
20 refrigerator-sized racks. It was recently installed at IBM’s Thomas J.Watson Research Center in Yorktown, N.Y.

Half of the Top 10 systems on the November 2004 Top 500 list were displaced
by new systems. Also, the last 201 systems on the list from last November
are now too small to be listed.

For example, changes began at the No. 2 slot, with BGW replacing the
Columbia system built by SGI and installed at the
NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Calif. Columbia clocked in at
51.87 teraflops. Former top flight supercomputer Earth Simulator, made by
NEC, fell to No. 4 with a top speed of 35.86 teraflops.

Often made up of a series of large machines, supercomputers are geared to
handle advanced computational tasks, processing large amounts of data for
high performance computing (HPC) applications.

HPC is popular in life
sciences, digital animation, financial modeling, quantum physics, space
research and weather modeling research.

The Top 500 results were announced at the International Supercomputing Conference
(ISC2005) in Heidelberg, Germany. Several high-tech companies are attending
the three-day event to demonstrate the computing prowess of their large

Top 500 list authors, Hans Meuer, Jack Dongarra, Erich Strohmaier and Horst
D. Simon, said innovation and performance improvements
are anything but slowing down.

IBM holds slot 5 with its MareNostrum cluster, installed at the Barcelona
Supercomputer Center in Spain and running at 27.91 teraflops. MareNostrum is
powered by IBM’s Power chips and BladeCenter JS20.

This machine ranks just barely ahead of No. 6, a Blue Gene system owned by
ASTRON and installed at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. That
machine posted speeds of 27.45 teraflops.

IBM is actually on a supercomputing tear, thanks to Blue Gene and its
various other high-performance computing efforts. In addition to having 6 of
the top 10 fastest supercomputers (five Blue Genes), the company sucks up
more than half of the Top 500 list. HP is second with about a quarter of the
Top 500.

Overall, supercomputers are getting faster. Entry level for the Top 500 is
now 1.166 teraflops, compared to 850.6 gigaflops six months ago. The last
system on the list would have been listed at position 299 in the last Top
500 just six months ago.

In other trends, 333 systems are now using Intel processors. The second most
commonly used processors are the IBM Power processors, powering 77 systems.
Hewlett-Packard’s PA RISC processors and AMD processors power 36 and 25
machines, respectively.

Also, 304 systems are considered clusters, far and away the most common
architecture in the list. The U.S. uses more supercomputing machines and/or
clusters than any other nation, with 294 of the 500 systems. Elsewhere, the
number of systems in Asian countries other than Japan is rising steadily.

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