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Top 500 supers - world yawns at petaflops

Not the norm. But getting there

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And the winner is...IBM. Or HP

So those are the big machines. Now let's talk about trends, the interesting part of the Top 500 ranking. There are 488 clusters on the list this time around, which comprise 58.6 per cent of the aggregate 22.61 petaflops on the list. There are 88 massively parallel machines, which get another 40.9 percent of the oomph. And there are two so-called constellation architecture boxes (not to be confused with Sun's product line) that make up a fraction of a per cent of the capacity.

By vendor, IBM is the winner when ranked by teraflops and Hewlett-Packard is the winner when ranked by systems. IBM has 188 systems on the June 2009 supers list, for a total of 37.6 per cent of machines, but at 8.9 petaflops across all of those machines, it had a 39.4 per cent share of capacity. HP has 212 machines on the list this time around (42.4 per cent of machines), but only 5.68 petaflops of capacity all told (25.1 per cent of the total).

It has been a long, long time since HP was anywhere near the top of this ranking. In fact, it was called Compaq when it was near the top of the list, so that doesn't really count. Cray has 20 machines on the list, a mere 4 per cent share of boxes, but they add up to 3.09 petaflops, giving Cray boxes a 13.7 per cent share of capacity. SGI has the same number of boxes as Cray, but half the capacity at 1.5 petaflops.

Dell has 14 machines plus two it shares with Sun, which has five of its own boxes on the list plus another it shares with NEC. Bull and Appro have a handful of machines on the list, and Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC have a couple each with a few more vendors having one or two boxes as well as two that are self-made. In terms of interconnect, there are 282 machines that are based on Gigabit Ethernet, another 151 that are based on various speeds of InfiniBand, three using SGI's NUMAlink interconnect, ten using Myrinet, and twenty using one speed or another of Cray's XT interconnect. There are four machines using IBM's proprietary SP switches, three still using Quadrics, and 42 boxes using some proprietary form of interconnect.

All told, the machines in the Top 500 list have 4.1 million processor cores. But not all cores are created equal in terms of performance or power consumption. There are 336 machines on the list based on Intel's quad-core Xeon processors (of the Clovertown, Harpertown, and new Nehalem EP Gainestown varieties), and if you include six Itanium machines and a bunch of other Xeons, there are 396 machines on the list that say Intel Inside. There are 13 boxes using dual-core Opterons, 28 using quad-core Opterons, and two using six-core Opterons, for a total of 43 boxes.

IBM's Power family of enterprise-class server chips account for 22 machines and its PowerPC chips (used in the BlueGene line) are in 29 machines. Another four machines (including the Roadrunner Los Alamos box) get the bulk of their processing from Power Cell chips. There's a smattering of other chips on the list: one Sparc box, one NEC vector box, and a custom machine using a chip called Grape-DR. The Power and Opteron processors have lost ground on the Top 500, while Intel Xeons have gained ground.

One of the interesting bits about the June 2009 list is that slightly more than half of the boxes (256 machines) were installed in 2009, and another 194 were installed in 2008. There may be an economic meltdown, but governments, universities, and academic labs are not being shy about spending dough on new-fangled supers. And that is pretty much worldwide. There are 299 machines on the list installed in the North America region, 145 installed in Europe, 49 in Asia, 6 in Oceania, and one in Central America. It is hard to believe that South America does not have one machine on the Top 500 list, but with Brazil being such an economic powerhouse these days, that will no doubt change soon.

To even get on the Top 500 list this time around, you have to build a machine with at least 17.1 teraflops of oomph. It was 12.6 teraflops back in November 2008. The aggregate capacity on the list was just under 17 petaflops in November, and now it has grown to 22.6 petaflops. ®

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