IBM Still Dominates Supercomputer List

IBM continues to dominate the supercomputing industry, according to the Top500 Organization's latest list of the most powerful computers in the world. Altogether, Big Blue's systems comprise 219 of the 500 systems included in the bi-annual survey.

IBM manufactured the top three systems on the list, with two falling under the company's Blue Gene supercomputer brand.

The Blue Gene/L is the fastest, at a speed of 280.6 teraflops. Built for the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the system is used to simulate nuclear tests as part of an ongoing maintenance program for the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

Following the Blue Gene/L is IBM's own Watson Blue Gene system, clocking in at a speed of 91.29 teraflops, and the ASC Purple supercomputer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that can operate at 63.39 teraflops.

"We've had a dominant lead in a variety of metrics," IBM's manager for the Blue Gene supercomputer Herb Schultz told BetaNews. But why is IBM such a supercomputer force? Schultz explained that it has to do with the business model IBM uses to sell its systems.

While its competitors offer primarily Linux clusters or one type of supercomputer system, Schultz says IBM instead gives the customer flexibility, offering a variety of types and platforms to fit their needs.

Altogether, the company's computers on the Top500 ranking account for 1.214 petaflops, the first time a single company has surpassed the petaflop mark in the list. Furthermore, IBM controls nearly 53 percent of the processing power, which is three times that of its closest rival.

IBM also points to its Power chip as a reason for its success. The company's most powerful supercomputers, the Blue Gene systems, are based on the Power technology.

"In the case of Blue Gene, one rack would equal 5.7 teraflops of performance," Schultz claimed. "It would take up to 20 racks of Intel-based supercomputers to offer the same kind of performance."

The Blue Gene systems have spurred much interest in the technology industry, and are being used, or are scheduled to be implemented, for a variety of different applications, according to IBM.

"Customers are using Blue Gene for high-end physics and moleclular modeling. Others are interested in using the system for things like fluid dynamics or weather modeling," Schultz added. "We've even had interest from Wall Street for financial modeling applications."

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