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Australia's Avoca Retains Spot as Fastest Life Science Supercomputer


This article has been updated to include one more life science system from the Top500 list — University of Chicago's Beagle.

According to the most recent version of the Top500 list released this week, "Avoca," the 65,536-core IBM BlueGene/Q supercomputer owned by Australia's Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative, remains the fastest life science supercomputer in the world, a position it has held since last June (BI 11/30/2012).

The system, which clocked in at 715.6 teraflops — up from 690.2 teraflops last year — has dipped slightly in the Top500 overall ranking. It's now No. 39 on the list of the world's fastest supercomputers, compared to the No. 33 spot it held in the November version of the twice-yearly ranking.

Three other life science systems are listed in current rankings. A 17,856-core, 125.8-teraflop Cray system named Beagle at the University of Chicago's Computation Institute, which is listed at No. 331 down from No. 208 in the last list; the 16,128-core, 100.6-teraflop Shirokane2 system at the University of Tokyo's Human Genome Center, which dropped to the No. 468 spot from No. 301; and Chinook, a 97.1-teraflop, 18,176-core HP cluster at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, which fell to No. 492 in the current list from No. 313 in November.

Two other systems that were on the list six months ago — a 9,498-core, 89.8 teraflop Rackable cluster at the Polish Academy of Science's Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry; and an 82.9-teraflop, 5,616-core HP system at Japan's National Institute of Genetics —did not meet the 96.6 Tflop/s entry requirement for the current version of the list.

(see Table 1, below, for details of the life science systems on the list).

Supercomputing Trends

China's Tianhe-2, or Milky Way-2, is the fastest computer on the 41st edition of the Top500 list. The supercomputer, which was developed by China's National University of Defense Technology, achieved 33.86 petaflops on the Linpack benchmark used to assess the performance of the Top500 systems. It takes over the top spot from Titan, a Cray XK& system installed at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Tianhe-2, which will be deployed at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho, China, by the end of the year, has 16,000 nodes, each with two Intel Xeon IvyBridge processors and three Xeon Phi processors for a combined total of 3.12 million computing cores.

A total of 54 systems on the Top500 list used some sort of accelerator technology, down from 62 in November. The majority of these — 39 in total — use Nvida chips, three use ATI Radeon, and 11 systems use Intel MIC technology.

Furthermore, systems with multi-core processors continue to dominate the list, with 88 percent of systems in the current list using processors with six or more cores and 67 percent using processors with eight or more cores.

Intel continues to provide the most processors for high-performance computing. Intel chips are installed in 403, or about 80 percent, of Top500 systems. That figure is slightly up from 76 percent of systems six months ago.

Meanwhile, HP has overtaken IBM in terms of most systems ranked in the current version of the list. HP claims 188 systems (38 percent) compared to 146 six months ago while IBM has 160 systems (32 percent) compared to 193 systems (38.6 percent) in November. Cray is third with 10 percent of the systems.

(see Table 2, below, for details of manufacturer rankings).

The complete Top500 ranking is available here.

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