The 31st edition of the TOP500 list of supercomputers was released Thursday at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany, and IBM, AMD and Intel have a lot of bragging rights. The list, issued twice a year since 1993, features some big shifts and interesting trends in supercomputing.
The biggest news is that Blue Gene/L, the supercomputer based at Lawrence Livermore Labs and run by the Department of Energy, has finally relinquished the top spot after leading the pack for four years.
It's been beaten by another IBM behemoth, named Roadrunner, which just this month came online at the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory. Roadrunner is the first computer to break the petaflop (define) barrier.
Blue Gene/L uses PowerPC chips, while Roadrunner uses a combination of AMD Quad Core Opterons and IBM's Cell Broadband Engine, the processor used in the innovative, though still-struggling PlayStation 3 from Sony.
Blue Gene/L comes in at number two and another Blue Gene system, at the Argonne National Laboratory, comes in at number three. Number four is another Opteron-based system and the highest-ranking system from Sun Microsystems, which only has three on the list. The company announced at the ISC show it was expanding its range of HPC products, which are sold under the Constellation brand name.
"Sun's top 5 showing in the Top 500 list spotlights the power of openness in HPC. Working with TACC, we've delivered the highest ranking system built on an open architecture and open platforms and made it possible for customers the world over to take advantage of the power of superscale technologies in their own departments," said John Fowler, executive vice president of the Systems Group at Sun in a statement.
Ranger, the supercomputer built by Sun at the University of Texas at Austin, would have been number one on the previous list, released in November 2007. That shows how quickly things change. When Blue Gene/L took the lead in November 2004, its peak performance was 70.7 teraflops. That would rank it at #23 on today's list. Thanks to continuous expansion, its peak performance is now 596 teraflops.
IBM (NYSE: IBM) still rules the list, with 210 of the 500 systems from Big Blue. HP (NYSE: HPQ) is second with 183 systems (36.6 percent), all of them Xeon or Itanium-based. Dell is third with 27 systems, SGI fourth with 22 and Cray is fifth with 16.