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Roadrunner Breaks Petaflop Barrier to Crown Top500; Life Science Systems Stable at Four

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IBM’s “Roadrunner” supercomputer, installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory earlier this month, has broken the petaflop barrier to claim the top spot on the most recent Top500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

Roadrunner, which LANL will use for a range of computational tasks including bioinformatics, achieved peak performance in the Linpack benchmark of 1.026 petaflops, making it the first supercomputer ever to surpass one quadrillion floating point operations per second.

The number of systems dedicated to life science research that made the most recent Top500 lineup remained unchanged at four, though there was some shuffling since the last version of the twice-annual list was released in November 2007 [BioInform 11-16-07]. The current list was released last week at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany. 

Two of the life science machines on the November list did not make the performance requirement for the current list — 9.0 teraflops on the Linpack benchmark, compared to 5.9 teraflops for the previous version.

Two new life science machines, both at pharmas, replaced those, however. One, a 1,152-core HP system at Boehringer Ingelheim, attained a peak performance of 10.2 teraflops to reach the No. 365 spot on the list. Another, a 1,600-core IBM BladeCenter cluster at Merck & Co., attained peak performance of 9.3 teraflops, placing it at No. 458 (see Table 1, below, for details).

The fastest life science offering remains IBM’s “Blue Protein” system at the AIST Computational Biology Research Center in Japan, which boasts 18.7 teraflops of performance and 8,192 processors. Its ranking in the Top500 fell to No. 101 in the current list from the No. 52 spot in November.

The 122,400-core Roadrunner system is based on IBM’s QS22 blades, which include versions of the processor in the Sony PlayStation 3. It displaced a 478.2-teraflop IBM BlueGene/L system at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that held the No. 1 spot on the Top500 for five iterations of the list. That system is now ranked No. 2.

In addition to claiming the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the list, and five of the top-ten spots, IBM maintained its lead as the manufacturer with the most systems on the list with 210, though its share dipped from 232 systems six months ago. Hewlett Packard was the second-most-common vendor, with 183 systems, up from 166 systems in November (see table 2, below, for details).

Cluster computers remain the dominant architecture among the world’s fastest supercomputers, but the number of cluster-based systems on the list dipped slightly to 400 from 406 systems in November (see table 3, below, for details).

Linux remains the most popular supercomputing operating system, with 427 systems in the current list, from 426 in November. Unix usage, meantime, fell to 25 systems from 30 systems. Mac OS’ placement remained unchanged with two systems and Windows-based systems fell to five from six in the November list.

Intel processors are now used in 372 of the Top500 systems, up from 354 systems six months ago. The Power chip family displaced AMD as the second most common processor, with 68 systems in the current list compared to AMD’s 55. In the November version of the list, 61 systems ran Power chips while 79 ran AMD (see table 4, below, for details).

In another trend, systems based on multi-core processors are gaining ground: In the current list, 283 systems use quad-cores, 203 use dual-cores, and only 11 systems use single-core processors. Three systems on the current list use IBMs modified PlayStation 3 processor, which has 9 cores.

For the first time, the Top500 ranking provided energy efficiency calculations for systems on the list. Overall, the most energy efficient supercomputers were based on IBM QS22 Cell processor blades, which provide up to 488 megaflops per watt.

The complete Top500 list is available here

Table 1: Life Science Supercomputers, by Rank, June 2008
Rank June 2008
Rank Nov. 2007
Installation Site Manufacturer/Computer Number of Processors
Tflop/s (max)
101
52
Computational Biology Research Center, AIST (Japan) IBM/"Blue Protein" eServer Blue Gene Solution 8,192
18.7
164
73
Stanford University Biomedical Computational Facility Dell/"Bio-X2" PowerEdge 1950 (2.33 GHz) 2,208
15.6
365
Boehringer HP/Cluster Platform 3000 BL260c (2.83 GHz Xeon) 1,152
10.2
458
Merck & Co. IBM/BladeCenter HS21 Cluster (2.33 GHz Xeon quad core) 1,600
9.3

 

Table 2: Top500 Supercomputer Manufacturer Ranking, June 2008
Manufacturer
Rank June 2008
Rank
Nov. 2007
Change in Rank
Count June 2008
Count Nov. 2007
Change in Count
IBM
1
1
209
232
-23
Hewlett-Packard
2
2
183
166
+17
Dell
3
3
25
24
+1
SGI
4
4
22
22
Cray Inc.
5
5
16
14
+2
Appro International
6*
7*
+1
4
4
Fujitsu
6*
8*
+2
4
3
+1
Hitachi
6*
7*
+1
4
4
Linux Networx
6*
6
4
9
-5
Sun Microsystems
6*
8*
+2
4
3
+1
Bull SA
7*
9*
+2
3
2
+1
Self-made
7*
7*
3
4
-1
T-Platforms
7*
10*
+3
3
1
+2
ACTION
8*
2
0
+2
ClusterVision/Dell
8*
2
0
+2
California Digital Corporation
9*
10*
+1
1
1
ClusterVision/IBM
9*
1
0
+1
DALCO AG Switzerland
9*
10*
+1
1
1
Hitachi/Fujitsu
9*
10*
+1
1
1
Intel
9*
10*
+1
1
1
Koi Computers
9*
10*
+1
1
1
NEC
9*
9*
1
2
-1
NEC/Sun
9*
10*
+1
1
1
Pyramid Computer
9*
1
0
+1
TeamHPC of M&A Technology
9*
10*
+1
1
1
Transtec AG
9*
10*
+1
1
1
UNICORNER/Fujitsu-Siemens
9*
1
0
+1
* Tie
Number of installed systems in the Top500

 

Table 3: Top500 Architecture Ranking, June 2008
Computer Architecture
Count June 2008
Count Nov. 2007
Change
Cluster (Beowulf, NOW, etc.)
400
406
-6
MPP (homogeneous architecture)
98
91
+7
Constellations (cluster of symmetrical processors)
2
3
-1
Number of installed systems in the Top500

 

Table 4: Top500 Processor Generation Ranking, June 2008
Processor Generation
Count June 2008
Count Nov. 2007
Change
Xeon E54xx (Harpertown)
116
0
+116
Xeon 53xx (Clovertown)
92
102
-10
Xeon 51xx (Woodcrest)
91
215
-124
Opteron Dual Core
42
69
-27
Xeon X54xx (Harpertown)
39
0
+39
PowerPC 440
21
21
-1
Opteron Quad Core
13
1
+12
POWER5+
12
18
-6
PowerPC 450
12
5
+7
POWER6
7
0
+7
PowerPC 970
6
8
-2
Xeon L54xx (Harpertown)
6
0
+6
Itanium2 Montecito Dual Core
6
0
+6
POWER5
4
5
-1
Itanium 2 Dual Core
4
1
+3
Xeon 52xx (Wolfdale)
4
0
+4
Xeon 73xx (Tigerton)
4
0
+4
Itanium 2
3
18
-15
POWER4+
3
3
PowerXCell 8i
3
0
+3
Pentium 4 Xeon
2
12
-10
Itanium2 Fanwood
2
0
+2
NEC
1
2
-1
Xeon EM64T
1
4
-3
Low Voltage Pentium Xeon
1
1
Core 2 Duo (T7xxx)
1
0
+1
Xeon 50xx (Dempsy)
1
1
Itanium2 Montvale
1
0
+1
Xeon 32xx (Kentsfield)
1
0
+1
Cray X1E
1
0
+1

 

 

 

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