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Roadrunner pips Jaguar to Top500 winning post

The 1.105 Petaflop/s 'Roadrunner' supercomputer has maintained the top spot it first achieved in June 2008 on the latest list of the world’s Top500 supercomputers.

The IBM system, installed at the US Los Alamos National Laboratory, was slightly enhanced during June and narrowly fended off a challenge by the Cray XT5 supercomputer at the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory, called Jaguar. The system, only the second to break the Petaflop/s barrier, posted a top performance of 1.059 petaflop/s in running the Linpack benchmark application. One petaflop/s represents one quadrillion floating point operations per second.

The latest Top500 ranking has seen the US sweep the board for top spots. Both the Roadrunner and Jaguar systems are at laboratories operated by the US Department of Energy (DOE), with seven of the top 10 systems on the newest Top500 list located at DOE facilities.

'It's an honour to hold the record for the world's most powerful computer, but what is critical is building supercomputers that help advance the global economy and society at large,' said David Turek, VP of Deep Computing at IBM. 'We pioneered energy-smart supercomputer designs with Blue Gene in 2000 and build substantially on that heritage each year to the benefit of science and industry. We apply our lessons learned and the innovation that comes from these efforts to IBM's commercial systems business.'

Furthermore, nine of the top 10 supercomputers are located in the United States. The most powerful system outside the US is the Chinese-built Dawning 5000A at the Shanghai Supercomputer Center. It is the largest system that can be operated with Windows HPC 2008 operating system.  

Just as the performance levels have increased dramatically, so have the costs of running and cooling such large systems. To help assess the energy efficiency of supercomputers, the Top500 list is now tracking actual power consumption of supercomputers in a consistent fashion. Not only is it the most powerful supercomputer, but Roadrunner is also one of the most energy efficient systems on the Top500. Roadrunner is based on the IBM QS22 blades, which are built with advanced versions of the processor in the Sony PlayStation 3. These nodes are connected with a commodity InfiniBand network.

Vendor share

The latest list, which is issued twice every year, has seen some interesting trends for the vendors, with Intel taking the lion’s share. A total of 379 systems (75.8 per cent) are now using Intel processors. This is virtually unchanged from six months ago (375 systems, 75 per cent) so Intel continues to provide the processors for the largest share of Top500 systems.

The IBM Power processors and the AMD Opteron family are almost tied as second most common processor family with 60 and 59 systems each (12 per cent and 11.8 per cent apiece). Both had only minor changes from six months ago.

Quad-core processor based systems have also taken over the Top500 quite rapidly with 336 systems already using them. 153 systems are using dual-core processors, and only four systems still use single core processors. Already seven systems use IBMs advanced Sony PlayStation 3 processor with nine cores.

And HP took over the lead in systems with 209 systems (41.8 per cent) over IBM with 188 systems (37.6 per cent).  IBM had 210 systems (42.0 per cent) six months ago, compared to HP with 183 systems (36.6 per cent). But IBM still stays ahead by overall installed performance.


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