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China's Nebulae rockets on supercomputing list; U.S. Jaguar still No. 1

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The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and its Jaguar system kept the No. 1 spot on the Top500 list of fastest supercomputers, but China's new Nebulae is close behind at No. 2.

The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and its Jaguar system kept the No. 1 spot on the Top500 list of fastest supercomputers, but China's new Nebulae is close behind at No. 2.

The Top500 list will be presented June 31 at the ISC'10 Conference held in Hamburg, Germany. The rankings are compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany; Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Nebulae, which emerged late last year as China's big entry into supercomputing, is currently the fastest system worldwide with a theoretical peak performance of 2.98 petaflops per second. One petaflop/s is one quadrillon calculations per second.

Nebulae, located at the National Supercomputing Centre in Shenzhen, China, runs on a Dawning TC3600 Blade system with Intel X5650 processors and Nvidia Tesla C2050 GPUs. Nebulae's Linpack performance benchmark was 1.271 PFlop/s so it was No. 2. Dawning is an Asia-based high performance computing vendor. Supercomputing systems with GPU accelerators have a higher theoretical limit.

Jaguar held on to No. 1 with 1.75 PFlop/s. Jaguar's theoretical peak is 2.3 Pflop/s and almost a quarter of a million cores (see paper on how Jaguar works).

At No. 3 was Roadrunner, housed at Los Alamos, with a performance at 1.04 Pflop/s.

Among other key points:

  • China is No. 2 in installed performance now---due to Nebulae and the No. 7 Tianhe-1 system. Tianhe-1 and Nebulae are both hybrid designs with Intel Xeon processors and AMD or NVidia GPUs used as accelerators. Each node of Tianhe-1 consists of two AMD GPUs attached to two Intel Xeon processors.
  • The U.S. is the largest consumer of high-performance computing systems with 282 of the Top500 fastest computers. Europe accounts for 144 systems with Asia at 57 systems. In Europe, the U.K. has the most systems. In Asia, China has the most with 24 systems, followed by Japan (18 systems) and India (5 systems).
  • IBM's BlueGene/P supercomputer was No. 5 and good for the fastest system in Europe.
  • Quad-core processor systems dominate the Top500 list with 425 systems using them. Processors with six or more cores are found in 25 systems and can be expected to increase going forward.
  • 81.6 percent of the systems---408 supercomputers---listed in the Top500 are using Intel chips. That tally is up from 80.4 percent six months ago. AMD's Opteron chip powers 47 systems (9.4 percent) up from 42 supercomputers six months ago. IBM Power processors run 42 systems (8.4 percent), down from 52 six months ago.
  • IBM and HP sell the most supercomputers in the Top500 list. IBM has 198 systems (40 percent) in the Top500 list followed by HP with 185 supercomputers (37 percent). Six months ago, HP led IBM. Cray, SGI and Dell account for anywhere from 3 percent to 4 percent of the Top500 list.
  • Big Blue accounts for 33.6 percent of the Top500 list's total performance. HP has 20.4 percent of total performance.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure