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HPC system at the Center for Nanoscale Materials, Argonne National Laboratory  (Source: Argonne National Laboratory)
Intel might have the lead in sales, but the most powerful supercomputer in the world uses IBM chips with AMD Opterons

Every year since 1993, the TOP500 project has kept track of the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world. It started off as a way to chart the growth of High Performance Computing (HPC), but has now evolved into a technological and marketing battleground. The bragging rights for the fastest and most powerful computer in the world have been contested by various countries, manufacturers, and architectures.

The TOP500 list itself is released by the project twice a year, and is compiled primarily by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim in Germany, and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee. Located at top500.org, the list is sortable by vendor, country, geographic region, and much more. The latest update has just been announced today at the opening session of the International Supercomputer Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

The most powerful computer in the world is still IBM's Roadrunner, located at the US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Built at a cost of $133 million, it was the first system to break the petaflop barrier (1 quadrillion floating point operations per second, or 10^15) on the TOP500 project's Linpack benchmark.

Roadrunner is a unique hybrid design, using 12,960 IBM PowerXCell 8i CPUs combined with 6,480 AMD Opteron dual-core processors. It uses Red Hat Enterprise Linux along with Fedora as its operating systems. Roadrunner is being used primarily to simulate how nuclear materials age in order to ensure the safety of the US's aging nuclear arsenal.

In second place is Cray's XT5 Jaguar system installed at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Jaguar reached 1.059 petaflop/s shortly after its installation in 2008, but no further measurements have been possible since then due to its heavy workload .

A new IBM BlueGene/P system named JUGENE, recently installed at the Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ) in Germany has claimed third place. It achieved 825.5 teraflop/s (trillion floating point operations per second) on the Linpack benchmark, but has a theoretical peak performance of just above 1 petaflop/s. FZJ is also home to the new tenth place system named JUROPA.

These two systems are the only non-US based HPC systems in the top ten, with the rest of the top ten slots being occupied by American supercomputers located at American universities and research centers. Not surprisingly, 291 of the TOP500 systems are located in the United States.

Designs vary widely; 383 of the TOP500 systems use quad core processors, and 4 systems use the same Cell 9-core CPU found in Sony's PlayStation 3 video game console. Two systems built by Cray are already using new six-core Istanbul AMD Opteron processors. Almost 80% of the TOP500 systems use Intel processors, and several systems are already being planned using Intel's eight-core Nehalem-EX Xeon server CPUs.

HPC systems are typically used in large corporations, universities, and research institutions. They are often used for basic and applied scientific research, such as modeling the decay of nuclear waste, simulating tectonic stresses to predict earthquakes, examining protein folding, and weather/climate modeling. Corporations are increasingly using cluster-based supercomputers for applications such as virtual prototyping/modeling, data mining & analysis, transaction processing, and video rendering.

The future for HPC development looks bright, as IBM is planning its Sequoia system for deployment in 2011. It will be capable of 20 petaflop/s, making it faster than all of today's TOP500 systems combined. Although that seems powerful, a 1 zettaflop/s (one sextillion FLOPS, or 10^21) system would be needed for accurate global weather modeling.

The next update to the TOP500 list will be presented in November at the IEEE Supercomputer Conference.


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Not surprisingly
By Yawgm0th on 6/23/2009 10:54:47 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Not surprisingly, 291 of the TOP500 systems are located in the United States.


Less surprisingly, almost 95% of them were designed by American firms -- including the top nine.




RE: Not surprisingly
By ClownPuncher on 6/23/2009 12:37:59 PM , Rating: 5
Unemployable American firms.


RE: Not surprisingly
By Yawgm0th on 6/23/2009 1:14:43 PM , Rating: 4
Staffed by unemployable American Computer Science and Electrical Engineering grads!


RE: Not surprisingly
By Integral9 on 6/23/2009 1:49:32 PM , Rating: 3
that cost too much to train to use these systems!


One Day
By MrHanson on 6/23/2009 2:51:43 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps one day we will look back and laugh and think how ridiculous it was that it required a whole building and millions of dollars to achieve 1 petaflop of computing power.




RE: One Day
By eddieroolz on 6/24/2009 2:29:21 AM , Rating: 2
Along with using nearly 20,000 processors to accomplish that.

Let's hope in 10 years time, we can drop in a processor and get 1 petaFLOP at only 95W.


RE: One Day
By ikkeman2 on 6/24/2009 7:31:45 AM , Rating: 3
95W - That won't run in my HTPC case


RE: One Day
By Boze on 6/24/2009 8:34:28 AM , Rating: 2
Hanson, people already look back at transistor tube computers from the 50s and 60s that have less power than the cheapest solar powered calculators nowadays do and think that.

The longer you live, the more humorous it becomes that amazing advances in technology, medicine, and general human understanding that were made in your lifetime are less and less impressive.

I remember running Quake on a Pentium 75 machine with 16 MB of RAM and a 540 MB hard drive with a 2 MB video card. I remember clearly saving up a week and a half's pay from my summer job to buy an STB Voodoo2 card, and going from 12 to 15 FPS at 320 x 240 to 55+ FPS at 1024 x 768. It was, quite simply, one of the most amazing moments of my teenage gaming life. Seeing first-hand the ridiculous improvement in performance absolutely floored me, the same I imagine, as many of the young engineers of the 50s and 60s look at computers nowadays and realize their home PC has dozens of times more power than the most powerful machine they ever worked with that fit in a room the size of a barn.


+1 to AMD 6 Core Opterons
By Shig on 6/23/2009 2:23:05 PM , Rating: 2
Considering how many 4 core Opterons these top super computers use, AMD was very smart for making the 6 core Istanbul Opteron a straight drop in upgrade.

They'll be able to get a very nice performance jump for not that much more capital investment just by changing the old 4 core Opti's to the 6 core Istanbuls.

I believe some of these super's are already buying the 6 core Opterons and getting ready for the switch.




RE: +1 to AMD 6 Core Opterons
By eddieroolz on 6/24/2009 2:26:15 AM , Rating: 2
Let's hope they sell the 4-core Opterons for a bargain!


That's an oxymoron
By ralith on 6/23/2009 4:37:15 PM , Rating: 2
"accurate global weather modeling" Funny!

But seriously I doubt they will ever "accurately" model the weather. Between floating point inaccuracies and not understanding all of the variables and their interactions required to accurately model the weather. I suppose they could throw some tolerance on that accuracy and call it good enough, but isn't that what they are already doing? So what's the point of building a giant super computer to chug on the equations in finer detail if you still have to add a tolerance to the result?




RE: That's an oxymoron
By Grumpy1 on 6/23/2009 7:12:08 PM , Rating: 2
Can you say kaos theory.


Yottaflops
By BB33 on 6/23/2009 11:22:47 AM , Rating: 3
Are they green, short and have pointy ears!




By fic2 on 6/23/2009 12:48:41 PM , Rating: 2
The Roadrunner is rated at 1.105 petaflop/s. It still is one of the most energy efficient systems on the TOP500




"zetta , then yotta ..."
By DatabaseMX on 6/23/2009 3:43:19 PM , Rating: 2
... and finally 'bubba'

:-)




well. . .
By Crazyeyeskillah on 6/23/2009 10:36:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Roadrunner is being used primarily to simulate how nuclear materials age in order to ensure the safety of the US's aging nuclear arsenal.


i thought it was used for designing and simulating new nuclear weapons as it has become as accurate as actually exploding the devices. . .




Hockey Stick
By Ammohunt on 6/24/2009 2:40:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The future for HPC development looks bright, as IBM is planning its Sequoia system for deployment in 2011. It will be capable of 20 petaflop/s, making it faster than all of today's TOP500 systems combined. Although that seems powerful, a 1 zettaflop/s (one sextillion FLOPS, or 10^21) system would be needed for accurate global weather modeling.


yet with much less computing power we draw hockey stick graphs that proves man induced global warming. I guess it would have been less believable if the truth was the graph was drawn on an HP Calculator.




Let's play pretend
By Jephph on 6/23/09, Rating: -1
RE: Let's play pretend
By Brain onna Bun on 6/23/2009 10:23:03 AM , Rating: 1
RE: Let's play pretend
By DerekZ06 on 6/23/2009 10:28:41 AM , Rating: 2
Zetaflop is a real word and unit of measure for amount of flops. It goes kilo, mega, giga, peta, exa, zetta , then yotta.


RE: Let's play pretend
By Jephph on 6/23/2009 10:47:33 AM , Rating: 1
...Hence the
quote:
Haha, jk ;)
...

*sigh*


RE: Let's play pretend
By ApfDaMan on 6/23/2009 10:50:54 AM , Rating: 2
internet saracsm = fail


RE: Let's play pretend
By rninneman on 6/23/2009 10:54:37 AM , Rating: 2
You forgot tera in between giga and peta.


RE: Let's play pretend
By DeepBlue1975 on 6/24/2009 9:23:31 PM , Rating: 2
You've forgotten the tera between the giga and the peta.


RE: Let's play pretend
By phazers on 6/23/2009 7:30:02 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
It goes kilo, mega, giga, peta, exa, zetta , then yotta.


What's next - whole-lotta?? :P


RE: Let's play pretend
By Boze on 6/24/2009 7:13:21 AM , Rating: 2
It doesn't matter how many zetaflops or even yottaflops your supercomputer is capable of, because first we need to have a complete and total understanding of the climate before we can accurately model it.

It would be like a blind sculptor with one arm and 2 fingers trying to craft David. We need more understanding of the underlying science that drives the climate before we can start making claims to accurate computer models.

All the power in the world is useless if you don't have the knowledge and wisdom to wield it properly.


“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith














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