DOE tops supercomputer rankings

The Energy Department laid claim to having five of the world's eleven fastest computers in the latest semiannual list of top-performing supercomputers released this week.

The BlueGene/L System, developed jointly by IBM and DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and installed at Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., claimed the top spot in the Top 500 Supercomputer rankings. It's a spot NNSA has held for the past three years, although the current system has been significantly expanded. It now achieves a Linpack benchmark performance of 478.2 teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second, compared to 280.6 teraflops six months ago, before its upgrade.

DOE's Red Storm supercomputer at NNSA's Sandia National Laboratories, Jaguar at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Franklin at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratories, all developed by Cray, ranked six, seventh and ninth on the Top 10 list. NNSA's ASC Purple IBM supercomputer, also at Lawrence Livermore, ranked eleventh.

Tom Pyke, chief information officer at DOE, said in highlighting DOE's rankings yesterday at an industry breakfast in Northern Virginia, said that as a result of that computational power, 'we're now able to model nuclear tests in lieu of physical testing.'

Based on the current rate of progress, 'we will have the world's first petaflop supercomputer within the next year and a half,' he said. He added that work is already under way to develop supercomputers capable of Exaflop speeds ' or one quintillion flops ' by 2012 or 2015.

The latest Top 500 rankings revealed several shifts in the high-performance computing landscape. Five supercomputers were new entrants to the Top 10 circle, including the first ever from India ' a Hewlett-Packard Cluster Platform at the Computational Research Laboratories, in Pune, India. The United States is still the leading consumer of high-performance computing systems, with 284 of the 500 systems, but Europe's share is rising. It represented 149 of the Top 500 systems, up from 127 in the previous ranking.

Multicore processors are the dominant chip architecture. The most impressive growth was in the number of systems using Intel Clovertown quad-core chips, which grew in six months from 19 to 102 systems. The majority of the remaining systems use dual-core processors. A total of 406 systems are labeled as clusters, making this the most common architecture in the Top 500.
The 30th edition of the Top 500 list was released Nov.12 at SC07, the international conference on high-performance computing, networking, storage and analysis, in Reno, Nev.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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