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AMD Shakes Up Top500 Supercomputers List

AMD made huge gains in the biannual list, while Intel slipped. But there was no surprise when IBM's BlueGene supercomputer held onto the No. 1 position.

Sharon Gaudin

November 14, 2006

4 Min Read

AMD and its dual-core Opteron processor made huge strides on the Top500 Supercomputers list, jumping from just 55 entries a year ago to 113 today.

The 28th version of the list, which is put together in June and November, was released Tuesday at SCO6, a high-performance computing conference being held in Tampa, Fla. While AMD made big gains, Intel lost ground, going from having 333 systems on the Top500 a year ago to 261 on the current list.

AMD even nudged out IBM to become the second-most-common processor family on the list. Ninety-three of the systems use IBM Power processors, up from 73 systems a year ago.

"I would say it's a very interesting trend," says Horst Simon, director of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in Berkeley, Calif. "I think one thing is that the Itanium systems have been stagnant. The supercomputing community, the engineering and scientific applications that need 64-bit performance, have decided that the Opteron is the best price point for 64-bit computing. It does very well in terms of performance and price performance."

AMD also made a strong showing in the top 10 spots on the list, grabbing three places. Intel also took three spots, while IBM grabbed four.

IBM also sits atop the list. The IBM BlueGene/L system, installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., remains in the No. 1 spot for the third year in a row. It has a Linpack performance of 280.6 teraflops.

With a number like that, Jack Dongarra, a professor of computer science at the University of Tennessee, said he doesn't expect any other supercomputer to topple BlueGene off its dominant seat anytime soon.

"There's no surprise at what's at the top of the list," says Dongarra, who, along with Simon, are two of the four authors of the Top500. "The IBM BlueGene is the most powerful machine by quite a bit I'd say it'll be on the top for two more lists."

According to the Top500 report, here are the other nine supercomputers in the top 10:

  • 2. Sandia National Laboratories' Cray Red Storm supercomputer, only the second system ever to exceed the 100 teraflops mark with 101.4 teraflops. The initial Red Storm system was ranked No. 9 in the last listing.

  • 3. The IBM eServer BlueGene Solution system, installed at IBM's Thomas Watson Research Center with 91.20 teraflops Linpack performance. It slipped out of second place, where it sat just this past June.

    4. The ASC Purple, which is installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs.

    5. The new No. 5 is the largest system in Europe, an IBM JS21 cluster installed at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. The system reached 62.63 teraflops.

    6. Sandia's Dell PowerEdge system was re-measured at 53 teraflops.

    7. The NovaScale 5160 system built by the French company Bull and installed at France's Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA) slipped to No. 7, despite a new Linpack measurement of 52.84 teraflops. The original system debuted in the No. 5 position in June.

    8. The Columbia, based on Intel Itanium processors, is installed at NASA.

    9. The TSUBAME grid cluster is the largest system in Japan, a cluster integrated by NEC based on Sun Fire X4600 with Opteron processors, ClearSpeed accelerators, and an InfiniBand interconnect. The system is installed at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

    10. The upgraded Cray XT3 system at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory reaches 43.48 teraflops per second.

The Earth Simulator, built by NEC, which held the No. 1 spot for five lists, has slipped out of the top 10 and is ranked at No. 14.

According to the Top500 report, the system in the No. 500 spot on the current list would have listed in position 359 in the Top500 list that came out just six months ago. This is one of the smallest turnover rates seen in the history of the Top500. Also noted in the report is that the total combined performance of all 500 systems on the list has grown to 3.54 petaflops per second, compared with 2.79 petaflops per second six months ago and 2.30 petaflops per second one year ago.

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