IBM Leads, Intel Gains in Supercomputer Ranking

Wednesday, at the 20th International Supercomputing Conference (ISC2005) in Heidelberg, Germany, the 25th edition of the TOP500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers was released. IBM tops the list with 51.8 percent of systems, followed by Hewlett-Packard at 26.2 percent, with SGI trailing at 5 percent.

Aside from the customary breakdown of market share, the listing has revealed rapid technological progress in the sector, the growth of the supercomputing market in Asia outside of Japan, and charts the rise of Intel hardware in the space.

Big Blue currently holds the title for developing the world's single fastest supercomputer, the Blue Gene/L, which is installed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Blue Gene/L achieves a Linpack benchmark performance rating of 136.8 trillion floating point operations per second (teraflops) and that rating is expected to double once the system is fully completed.


IBM says that it expects to maintain the number one spot well beyond the next TOP500 list.

The original BlueGene/L system burst onto the scene in October 2004, achieving 36.01 teraflops and significantly reducing the energy consumption and profile of the supercomputer. Blue Gene/L displaced NEC's Earth Simulator as the world's fastest supercomputer, which stood as king of the hill for nearly two years.

Another IBM Blue Gene system, which was announced earlier this month, occupies the number two slot with a peak performance of 91.29 teraflops. The system, referred to as Watson Blue Gene (BGW) is installed at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY.

The bronze metal goes to SGI for building its Columbia system for the NASA Ames Research Center. The Columbia system clocks in at 51.87 teraflops.

NEC's Earth Simulator now rests at the number four position with a peak performance of 35.86 teraflops after holding the top spot for 5 consecutive TOP500 lists. When asked to comment on its descent from the top position, an NEC spokesperson said, "In the extremely technologically competitive world of supercomputers, retaining the top position for almost two years is a rather surprising feat and was also a great honor for NEC."

Principal IT Analyst Stacey Quandt, of Quandt Analytics, told BetaNews that Blue Gene was responsible for IBM's sudden rise in the TOP500.

"IBM's was able to overtake NEC and SGI with Blue Gene, a purpose-built supercomputer system that is optimized for bandwidth, scalability and throughput. In effect Blue Gene can process large amounts of data but uses less power and floor space than NEC and SGI supercomputers," Quandt said.

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