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PC Clusters Continue to Gain Foothold in Latest Top 500 Supercomputing Ranking


Among a few surprises — most notably the rapid ascendance of Japan’s 35.86-Tflop/s NEC Earth Simulator to the number-one spot — the most recent Top500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers indicates that cluster architecture is rapidly becoming the norm, rather than the exception, in the high-performance computing world.

The nineteenth edition of the Top500 list, released on June 20 at the ISC2002 conference in Heidelberg, Germany, included a total of 80 cluster computers — nearly double the November 2001 ranking, which contained 43. These 80 comprise 42 Intel-based PC clusters (31 of these are IBM Netfinity systems) and seven AMD-based PC clusters, as well as five Sun, five Alpha, and 21 AlphaServer clusters. Twelve of the clusters are described as “self-made,” up from six in November. The fastest cluster computer, an 825-Gflop/s AMD-based Megware Helics system, came in at #35.

First-timers on the list include Syrrx (#368) and Inpharmatica (#390), which each boast Pentium III-based Netfinity clusters (clocked at 182.4 Gflop/s and 165 Gflop/s, respectively). Other life science computers on the list include two SGI Origin 3000s at the home of the KEGG database, the Institute for Chemical Research at Kyoto University (#122, 405.6 Gflop/s and # 260, 210.2 Gflop/s); a 296.2-Gflop/s Hewlett-Packard SuperDome 75 at Agilent (#166); a 194.8-Gflop/s SuperDome 750 at Aventis Pharma (#326); and a 182.4-Gflop/s IBM ni3100e at Amgen (#369).

The Earth Simulator ran the Linpack benchmark nearly five times faster than the now #2 IBM ASCI White at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, bumping the 7.2 Tflop/s system from the top spot for the first time since November 2000. As an indicator of the Earth Simulator’s performance, the list’s creators note that the combined performance of all 500 systems in the November 1998 ranking did not exceed 30 Tflop/s.

In terms of installed systems, the current edition of the list places Hewlett-Packard, with 168, above IBM, with 164. However, IBM wins out in total installed performance, with 73.8 Tflop/s — ahead of HP with 49.2 Tflop/s and NEC with 42.2 Tflop/s.

Total combined performance of all 500 computers on the current list is 222 Tflop/s, compared to 134.4 Tflop/s in November 2001. The list now includes 23 systems that exceed 1 Tflop/s.

The biannual Top500 list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee.

The complete Top500 list is available at

— BT


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