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IBM tops supercomputer list again

Itanic sinking, HP and Opteron rising

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SC05 The new list of the world's fastest supercomputers has arrived with few surprises. IBM servers and Intel chips still stand behind the majority of the systems. Itanium keeps losing spots, while Opteron gains momentum; and HP gains strongly while Sun Microsystems struggles to claim a handful of systems.

IBM's BlueGene/L system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) ranks as the top system on the November Top 500 list just as it did in June. The box, however, has doubled in size over the past few months and now claims a Linpack score of 280.6 TFlop/s. No other system has ever cracked the 100 Teraflops per second barrier. IBM also holds the number two slot with a smaller Blue Gene system housed at the Thomas Watson Research Center.

In June, an SGI Itanium-based beast at NASA/Ames held the number three position. Not anymore. IBM now owns the three spot as well with its ASCI Purple system based on pSeries 575 servers also at LLNL.

Overall, IBM has seen its number of Top 500 systems drop from 259 in June to 219 in November. HP picked up a lot of this slack, claiming 169 systems in the most recent list versus 131 systems in June.

Intel's processors sit in a whopping 333 of the Top 500 systems - as many as the last list. Itanic boxes fell though, to just 46 systems from 79. Meanwhile, AMD saw its Opteron chips power 55 systems as opposed to just 25 systems in June. AMD's performance on the Top 500 list has been relatively lackluster given the strong performance of Opteron and interest in the chip.

Of all the Tier 1 vendors, Sun again came in last with just four systems, down from five in June.

As always, the Top 500 list proves interesting to the supercomputing crowd but is largely irrelevant to business customers. The systems on the list cost tens of millions of dollars and are tuned to perform well on the Linpack benchmark. They're used by government labs here and abroad for specialized tasks such as nuclear weapons simulations and weather forecasting.

The vendors don't mind helping the labs out with some financial aid to get these boxes built. IBM, after all, can point to its strong performance for many months and use the supercomputers basically as high-priced advertisements.

You can find the latest Top500 list here. ®

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