Windows finally breaks into the Top 10 among supercomputers

Although only five of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers ran Windows -- the same number as last June -- the fastest among them has finally claimed the #10 spot.

A cluster of 30,720 AMD Opteron cores built by Dawning for the Shanghai Supercomputer Center has posted an Rmax score of 180,600, enough to land it among the world's top ten fastest supercomputers. Last June, the #10 cluster on the University of Mannheim's Top 500 list only had to score 112,500.

It's by far Windows' best showing, with a cluster operated by the NCSA (the birthplace of the Mosaic Web browser) having only posted a #23 showing and an Rmax score of 68,480.

Twice each year, the rankings of 500 of the world's supercomputers are assessed by the University of Mannheim in association with Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Those assessments use the industry standard Linpack benchmark. Supercomputers' scores are sorted by tested clusters' maximal observed peak performance, in gigaflops (GFlops, or billions of floating-point operations per second). This performance is called the "Rmax rating," although Mannheim does publish theoretical peak performance ("Rpeak") as a comparison, representing how fast the system architects believe each system could or should perform. Dividing Rmax by Rpeak rating produces a yield ranking, which represents how well each system is performing to engineers' expectations.

The Dawning machine's yield is about 77.3%, which is fair but not excellent. It suggests that with some tuning, it could perform even better next June.

Leading the way this year, as we reported yesterday, the mighty IBM Roadrunner constructed for the US Department of Energy at Los Alamos National Labs, improved upon its June score which had already made it the first to break the petaflop barrier. Following closely behind, though, is a new machine called Jaguar built for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory using Cray XT5 equipment -- a return to glory for this venerable brand. Opteron-based Cray XT architecture was responsible for 22 clusters that made this season's Top 500, compared with 26 IBM BlueGenes, 21 IBM Power-based pSeries clusters, and 141 other IBM-built clusters using Intel, AMD, or Power processors.

Intel processor-based machines comprised 378 of the Top 500, including the new #3 -- a new SGI/Altrix ICE system built for NASA's Ames Research Center. It scored a 487,005, which placed it above the former long-time champion IBM BlueGene/L. But Intel CPUs did not place so well among the top performers, as AMD Opteron processors scored the #2, #6, #7, #8, #9, and #10 positions, among the 60 that did make the list.

Linux distributions were responsible for a whopping 471 of the Top 500 clusters, including all of the top nine. The one Mac OS X-based supercomputer still in the lot remains the one made for COLSA Corporation out of Xserve clusters, now ranking #310 with an Rmax score of 16,180.

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