Friday, July 1, 2011

The World Top 10 Supercomputers (Based on the June 2011 TOP500 List)

Twice a year, a list of the world fastest supercomputers is being published (well… the list of the known supercomputers, there are many others that are not public…). The latest list was published on June 20th, 2011 on the TOP500 web site –

In the June 2011 list (the 37th TOP500 List) for the first time, all of the top 10 supercomputers demonstrated more than a Petaflop of computing performance (more than a quadrillion calculations per second…). Here is my view on the top 10 systems (the truth, if you can handle the truth….).

Geography: USA with 5 systems, Europe (France) with 1 system, Japan with 2 systems and China with2 systems. Interestingly enough, in the top 5, one system is from the US, and 4 are from Asia. Is Asia taking the lead in HPC?  Or will we see an increase in funding to enhance the HPC development in the US?

Vendors: Fujitsu, NUDT, Cray (3 systems), Dawning, HP, SGI, Bull and IBM. Complete diversity.

CPUs: 5 systems use Intel, 3 systems use AMD, 1 system with Sparc and 1 system with Power. 80% use commodity x86 solutions. The new appearance of Sparc in the top 10 is due to the new system made by Fujitsu. Some folks see that as the second Earth simulator – a nice demonstration of capability, no much spread beyond that.

Accelerators: 5 systems use accelerators (GPGPU, Cell) to achieve the desired performance. Interesting trend due to the compute/dense/economical efficiency of the GPGPUs. My prediction is that more GPGPUs will be used (that is a safe bet…. ;-) ), and we will definitely find them as part of off-the-shelf CPUs in the not-to-far future.

Interconnect: 5 systems use Mellanox InfiniBand, 3 systems use Cray proprietary interconnect, 1 system uses NUDT proprietary interconnect and 1 system uses the Fujitsu Tofu proprietary interconnect. Looking in previous lists, InfiniBand as a standard has gain momentum in the top 10 systems. From 3 systems in the top 10, to 4 systems (last list) and to 5 systems in the current list. Win for the standard-base solutions is a win for all of us – most of the high-performance computing systems are based on standard solutions (there are many more than 500 HPC systems in the world you know….) therefore development around standard solution in the high-end of HPC platforms brings better capabilities and feature set to the rest of the HPC arena.

I prefer standard based solution over proprietary – better eco-system, better usage models and in a reach of everyone in need for HPC resources. Money spent in proprietary solutions is in my view just a big waste.

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