Irish supercomputer ranking has a new, anonymous leader

22 Jun 2016

The sixth Irish supercomputer rankings list has been released, with a changing of the guard atop the pile. An unnamed private company now dominates the Irish computing landscape.

Fionn’s reign as Ireland’s most powerful supercomputer has come to an end, with the Irish Centre for High-End Computing’s (ICHEC) machine now dwarfed by three new entrants at the top of the list.

Each owned by the same anonymous company – known merely as ‘Software Company M’ – they bring Ireland’s processing performance up a step or two, with Fionn’s 140.4-teraflop machine less than half that of the third-placed machine above it on the list.

Future Human

Dramatic shift

A 365.9-teraflop computer running an Intel Xeon E5 powered machine (sporting 14,568 cores) tops the charts. Ireland is ranked second in the world in terms of supercomputers per capita – however this is entirely fuelled by these three privately-owned computers reflecting quite well over our relatively small population.

The new list marks a dramatic shift away from that of the last iteration, released in December, with six new machines now ranked at positions 1, 2, 3, 8, 20 and 27.

The three entries at the top are ranked in the Top 500 ranking of global machines, with the combined performance of 981-teraflops-per-second almost 1.5-times that of the entire December list combined.

Calling this month’s rankings a “seismic shake-up” in Ireland’s high-performance computing landscape, UCD’s Brett Becker – who manages the Irish list – said the area is “alive and well” now.

Funding issues

However given the surge in privately-owned and managed computers at the top of the Irish list, the ICHEC remains worried at the investment and consideration put towards publicly accessible super computers in the country.

“The gulf between supercomputing expenditure in industry and public research in Ireland is widening,” said JC Desplat, director of ICHEC.

“Due to chronic under-investment as a result of recession, the Irish National HPC Service has seen no investment since 2012,” he said, claiming Irish researchers have “one of the lowest” rates of access to computational resources, per capita, in the EU.

The full list sees ‘Software Company M’ in first, second, third, and fifth spot, with the ICHEC (4th), Trinity College (7th), Tyndall (8th) and UCD (9th and 10th) rounding out the top 10.

Irish computers trail in the wake of the true global monster machines, though. Earlier this week, it was revealed that China now has the world’s two most powerful supercomputers.

At 93 petaflops, the Sunway TaihuLight enjoys three times the processing power of Tianhe-2, which previously held the top spot, and was also produced in China.

*Update: This article was updated on Friday 24 June at 08.00 to reflect comments from the ICHEC

Supercomputer concept image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic