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Enterprise Hardware

U.S., IBM Regain Supercomputer Crown

U.S., IBM Regain Supercomputer Crown
June 18, 2012 2:08PM

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"There are a lot of bragging rights with this contest and bragging rights lead to multimillion-dollar contracts," said analyst Rob Enderle of an IBM BlueGene/Q system topping the list of the world's most powerful supercomputers. "There's defense work and high-end scientific work is done on these machines." IBM's Sequoia supercomputer won.

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For the first time since November 2009, a U.S. supercomputer sits atop the TOP500 list of the world's top supercomputers. And the winner comes out of IBM.

Dubbed Sequoia, the IBM BlueGene/Q system installed at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved 16.32 petaflops on the Linpack benchmark using 1,572,864 cores. In all, four of the top 10 supercomputers are IBM BlueGene/Q systems.

Total performance of all the systems on the list has increased considerably since November 2011, reaching 123.4 Pflop/s. The combined performance of the last list was 74.2 Pflop/s. The No. 500 machine on the list notched a performance level of 60.8 teraflop/s, which was enough to reach No. 332 just seven months ago.

An Important IBM Win

We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his take on what this really means for IBM and the rest of the players on the list. He told us these competitions for super computers are not only between companies but they are between countries.

"There are a lot of bragging rights with this contest and bragging rights lead to multimillion-dollar contracts," Enderle said. "There's defense work and high-end scientific work is done on these machines. So there is quite a bit of money thrown into this market. If the U.S. wants to maintain its lead in electronics it needs to maintain the lead in supercomputers. So this is a very important win for IBM and for the nation."

The U.S. is clearly the leading consumer of high-performance computing systems with 253 of the 500 systems. The European share is still lower than the Asian share. Dominant countries in Asia are China, with 68 systems, and Japan, with 34 systems. In Europe, the U.K., France and Germany are almost equal with 25, 22, and 20, respectively.

The Mira Supercomputer

On the latest TOP500 list, Fujitsu's "K Computer," which is installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan, is in second place with 10.51 Pflop/s using 705,024 SPARC64 processing cores. The K Computer held the No. 1 spot on the previous two lists.

Meanwhile, the new Mira supercomputer, an IBM BlueGene/Q system at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, debuted in third place with 8.15 petaflops/s while using 786,432 cores. The other U.S. system in the Top 10 is the upgraded Jaguar at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, which was the top U.S. system on the previous list and now clocks in at No. 6.

The newest TOP500 list also marks a return of European systems in force. The most powerful system in Europe and fourth on the list is SuperMUC, an IBM iDataplex system installed at Leibniz Rechenzentrum in Germany. Another German machine, the JuQUEEN BlueGene/Q at Forschungszentrum Juelich, is eighth.

IBM vs. HP

Italy makes its debut in the Top 10 with an IBM BlueGene/Q system installed at CINECA. The system is seventh on the list with 1.72 Pflops performance. France occupies the ninth spot with a homegrown Bull supercomputer.

China, which briefly took the first and third spots in November 2010, has two systems in the Top 10, with Tianhe-1Aat the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin in No. 5 and Nebulae at the National Supercomputing Centre in Shenzhen No. 10.

IBM kept its lead in systems and now has 213 systems, compared with HP, with 138 systems. HP is slightly down from 141 systems seven months ago, compared with IBM with 223 systems at the time. In the system category, Cray, Appro, SGI and Bull follow with 5.4 percent, 3.6 percent, 3.2 percent, and 3.2 percent, respectively.

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