US claims most powerful supercomputer for first time in two years

18 Jun 2012

The TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers has been updated, with the IBM BlueGene/Q system installed at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory taking the top spot.

Codenamed Sequoia, the US supercomputer is not only the most powerful on the list, but also one of the most energy efficient.

A petaflop is a measure of a computer’s processing speed and can be expressed as 1015 (that’s one quadrillion) floating point operations per second. The Sequioa measures 16.32 petaflop/s on the Linpack benchmark using 1,572,864 cores.

World’s most powerful

The TOP500 list is compiled twice each year by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Though the US has the largest number of supercomputers on the list, this is the first time since 2009 that one of its systems has come out on top.

Fujitsu’s K Computer installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan, was No 1 for the last two lists running, and now sits at No 2 with 10.51 Pflop/s using 705,024 SPARC64 processing cores.

A second computer from the US rounds out the top three: the Mira supercomputer, another IBM BlueGene/Q system, this time at Argonne National Library in Illinois, with 8.15 Pflop/s using 786,432 cores.

The most powerful supercomputer in Europe is the SuperMUC, an IBM iDataplex system installed at Leibniz Rechenzentrum in Germany, ranking fourth on the list. France and Italy’s supercomputers also appear in the top 10.

More power

The combined performance of all the supercomputers has increased considerably since November 2011, reaching 123.4 Pflop/s compared to 74.2 Pflop/s on the last list.

Of the top 500, 74.4pc now use Intel processors, down from 76.8pc, while AMD Opteron holds steady at 12.6pc. IBM, however, has increased its share from 9.8pc to 11.6pc.  

The number of systems using accelerators or co-processors has increased from 39 to 58 and 53 of these use NVIDIA chips, two use Cell processors, two use ATI Radeon and one uses Intel MIC technology.

Overall, IBM is the top vendor on the list, accounting for 42.6pc (213 systems), compared to HP’s 27.6pc, a decrease from its previous figure of 28.2pc.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.