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Top 500 supers: China rides GPUs to world domination

The People's Republic of Petaflops

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Xeon rides the wave

Having said all of that, the 391 machines using Intel's Xeon processors represent the belly of the Top 500 list. With a total of 3.5 million cores (53.5 per cent of the total core count on the list) and 43.2 petaflops of number-crunching oomph (65.8 per cent of total flops), the Xeon is the champion of the top-end HPC world. Of course, the Xeon CPUs is getting credit for flops that are being done by GPUs in many cases.

In terms of core count, there are 289 machines that have between 4,096 and 8,192 cores, and 96 machines that have from 8,192 to 16,384 cores. You need more than 1,000 cores to make the list, and there are only two boxes that have fewer than 2,048 cores and only 61 have between 2,048 and 4,096 cores. The system count drops off pretty fast above this core count, with 52 machines having more than 16,384 cores.

The Top 500 list is pretty evenly split between Ethernet, with 226 machine, and InfiniBand of various speeds, at 226 machines. The remaining machines are a smattering of Myrinet, Quadrics, Silicon Graphics NUMAlink, and Cray SeaStar and Gemini interconnects. There were seven machines on the list using 10 Gigabit Ethernet for lashing nodes in parallel supers together, and 29 used 40 Gb/sec (QDR) InfiniBand

By operating system, Linux in its various incarnations dominates the list, with 450 out of 500 machines running it. Unix accounted for 20 machines, Windows five machines, and the remainder were running mixed operating systems. If Microsoft wanted to catch a new wave, it would work to get the best possible GPU runtime and programming tools to market. Just tweaking the MPI stack in Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 to get rough parity with Linux is not going to make a dent at the big supercomputer centers of the world. Then again, Microsoft is trying to move into the HPC arena from the technical workstation up, and it has other advantages that Linux platforms do not in this regard.

IBM has the most systems on the November 2010 Top 500 list, with 199 boxes (39.8 per cent of the total) and 17.1 petaflops (26 per cent of the total flops on the list) of aggregate peak performance on the Linpack test. Big Blue is followed up by Hewlett-Packard, with 158 machines and 11.7 petaflops, which works out to 31.6 per cent of machines and 17.8 per cent of total flops. Cray has only 29 machines on the current super ranking, which is 5.8 per cent of machines but 16.3 per cent of peak floating point power. Silicon Graphics has 22 machines on the list, which is 4.4 per cent of boxes and 4.5 per cent of aggregate flops. Dell has 20 boxes on the list and its hand in a few mixed boxes as well, and Oracle, Fujitsu, NEC, and Hitachi all have a handful of machines, too.

Supercomputing is inherently political (especially so given where the funding for the upper echelon of the Top 500 list comes from), and countries most certainly measure each other up in their HPC centers. The United States leads with machine count, at 275 machines with a combined 31.5 petaflops, and China has jumped well ahead of Japan to become the solid number two, with 42 machines and 12.8 petaflops in total across those machines. Japan has 26 machines that add up to 4.6 petaflops, and Germany's 26 machines have an aggregate of 3.5 petaflops. The United Kingdom is close behind with 24 machines, for a total of 2.2 petaflops, followed by Russia with 11 machines and 1.1 petaflops. ®

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