ANALYSIS & OPINION

Jaguar replaces Roadrunner as world's most powerful supercomputer

1 December 2009



The Cray XT5 supercomputer, known as Jaguar, has been named the world's fastest supercomputer, according to the Top500 list, announced on 17 November at SC09 in Portland, Oregon. Located at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the upgraded supercomputer posted a 1.75 Petaflop/s performance when running the Linpack benchmark. With nearly a quarter of a million cores, it has a theoretical peak capability of 2.3 Petaflop/s.

'We are pleased that the upgraded Cray XT5 system at ORNL has added this new honour to its growing list of achievements,' said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray. 'While we are thrilled to have designed and built a supercomputing system that has broken a number of firsts in the industry, we are most proud of the fact that Jaguar is used day-in and day-out to solve real-world scientific problems at sustained speeds.'

IBM's Roadrunner (at the US Los Alamos National Laboratory) was the first machine to record a petaflop performance, but Jaguar's speed has now knocked Roadrunner into second place.

Kraken, another upgraded Cray XT5 system at the US National Institute for Computational Sciences/University of Tennessee, claimed the No. 3 position with a performance of 832 teraflop/s (trillions of calculations per second).

At number four was the most powerful system outside the US -- an IBM BlueGene/P supercomputer located at the Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ) in Germany. It achieved 825.5 teraflop/s on the Linpack benchmark and was number three in June 2009.

Three machines from the US National Nuclear Security Administration's laboratories and Advanced Simulation and Computing programme ranked within the top 10 spots: IBM's Roadrunner in second place; IBM's BlueGene/L (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) number seven; and Red Sky from Sun Microsystems (Sandia National Laboratories/National Renewable Energy Laboratory) ranked tenth.

While the NNSA uses its supercomputers to maintain the US nuclear weapons stockpile, they are also used for a number of other scientific initiatives. Roadrunner, for example, has been used to run science and engineering simulations, including those aiding HIV vaccine design. BlueGene has been used to predict the properties of metals under extreme temperature and pressure conditions.

The Chinese National University of Defence Technology (NUDT) unveiled China's fastest supercomputer, Tianhe-1 (TH-1), ranked fifth on the list. Elsewhere in the world, Eastern Europe's most powerful system, Lomonosov, was ranked 12th. Victor Sadovnichy, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and president of Moscow State University where it is housed, said: 'According to the Top500 rating, only four countries in the world house supercomputers of such scale, and Russia is among them now. It is a great leap forward for the Russian supercomputer technologies.' Lomonosov was developed and manufactured by Russian supercomputer holding T-Platforms.

Green500

The Green500 list, ranking the most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world, was also announced alongside the Top500 list at SC09. eQPACE, one of the advanced prototypes evaluated by PRACE (the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe), topped the list. The supercomputer is a power-efficient special-purpose architecture for lattice Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) that has been developed in a collaborative effort between several academic institutions and the IBM development laboratory in Böblingen, Germany. It is embedded in a 4-rack system situated at Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany and produces more than 723 Megaflops per watt of energy.

'Supercomputers can no longer focus only on raw performance. The era of simply adding more processors is coming to a close,' said David Turek, vice president, deep computing, IBM. 'Clients need to be able to run supercomputers anywhere, not only places that have cheap power. As the Green500 proves, IBM has focused on this issue for some time and is well positioned to usher in performance breakthroughs along with efficiency gains.'

The list shows that 18 of the top 20 most energy efficient supercomputers in the world are built on IBM technology. IBM's Roadrunner is ranked sixth on the list, capable of over 444 Megaflops per watt of energy.

The greenest supercomputer in UK academia is the University of Southampton's new supercomputer, which was also ranked second as the most energy-efficient UK-based supercomputer overall – covering both academia and commercial markets.

Professor Philip Nelson, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton, commented: 'It's good to know that the University of Southampton not only has one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, but also one of the greenest. While our researchers are investigating new responses to climate change, designing new transport systems and exploring the origins of life on earth, it's important that we limit our impact on the planet.'

Custom-designed and built by supercomputer and storage integrator OCF and using IBM's iDataPlex server technology, the supercomputer generates 299.52 Megaflops per watt of power. The iDataPlex technology reduces the number of fans and power supplies needed to cool and power the components of the supercomputer. It also utilises an inbuilt water cooling system which is incredibly energy efficient. It will be used by leading-edge researchers across the University to make highly complex computations in fields ranging from cancer research to climate change.

Related internet links

Top500
Green500