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Intel, Dell, Home-Grown Clusters Move to HPC Prominence in Latest Top500 Ranking


Do-it-yourself has officially become a mainstream approach to high-performance computing, according to the 21st edition of the Top500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers released last week.

While the 35.86 Tflop/s Earth Simulator supercomputer built by NEC still topped the biannual ranking, commodity-style approaches continued to make headway. On the current list, 23 systems were described as “self-made,” up from 16 in the November 2002 ranking. In addition, a total of 119 systems are using Intel processors, up from 56 six months ago; Dell claims 15 systems, up from 8; and 149 systems are now labeled as clusters, up from 93.

The stewards of the Top500 list — Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee — called Intel’s surge “a major shift in this marketplace” that adds the processor family to dominant HPC processors like IBM’s Power architecture and Hewlett-Packard’s PA-RISC chips.

The fact that 126 of the cluster systems were assembled by companies “reflects the importance this class of systems has gained for the manufacturers active in this market segment,” according to the listkeepers.

On the bioinformatics front, a 1048-processor, 895-Gflop/s IBM system installed at the Translational Genomics Research Center earlier this year debuted at No. 66. The 4,000-processor Dell cluster at the Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics slipped from No. 22 to No. 25, while the addition of 224 Bioinformatics slipped from No. 22 to No. 25, while the addition of 224 processors bumped up Applera’s IBM system from No. 128 to No. 53 (see table, p. 3, for a complete listing).

In terms of total performance of all the installed systems, the latest Top500 edition still ranks IBM as the clear leader with a total of 130.9 Tflop/s, ahead of HP with 90.2 Tflop/s, and NEC with 43.9 Tflop/s. With 159 installed systems, HP continues to claim the largest number of supercomputers on the list, but beats out IBM by only one installation. SGI ranked third, with 54 systems, up from 45 in November. Sun, which held the No. 3 spot six months ago, slipped to No. 10 in the current list as its installed systems plummeted from 88 to 9.

The number of systems exceeding 1 Tflop/s on the Linpack benchmark in the current ranking is now 59, up from 47 six months ago. The total combined performance of all 500 computers on the list is 375 Tflop/s, compared to 293 Tflop/s in November, and the entry level for the list is now 245.1 Gflop/s, compared to 195.8 Gflop/s six months ago.

The complete Top500 list is available at

— BT

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