IBM Maintains Its Supercomputer Reign

The Top 500 List, compiled by university professors in Mannheim, Germany, and Knoxville, Tenn., and scientists at the NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has sliced and diced its most current data to show trends toward X-86 chips in high-performing systems and away from HP&'s PA-RISC.

The top-ranked supercomputer in the world continues to be IBM&'s BlueGene/L system, developed jointly by IBM and the U.S. Department of Energy&'s National Nuclear Security Administration. It&'s deployed at the Energy Department&'s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, Calif. BlueGene increased its performance over the past six months, the list keepers found, jumping to a measured performance of 280.6 teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second.

While many of the systems on the Top 500 list were installed directly by vendors themselves, more of them are being constructed and upgraded using industry standard technology. For example, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel saw its processors powering 66.6 percent of all supercomputers on the list, a gain from the 63.8 percent the chipmaker registered on the list one year ago. However, Intel&'s primary rival, AMD, Sunnyvale, Calif., saw its chips power 11 percent of the systems that made the list, up from six percent a year earlier.

The biggest loser in chip market share: HP&'s PA-RISC processor. The chip, which HP is easing out of its product road map in favor of Intel&'s IA-64 architecture, dropped from 10.2 percent to 3.4 percent of processors used in the Top 500.

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David Chang, president of Agama Systems, a Houston-based system builder and solution provider, said he believes the increase in Intel- and AMD-based supercomputers is beginning to reflect the economics of its technologies.

“It&'s much easier to install and it&'s much cheaper to maintain” using industry-standard technology, Chang said. “When you are trying to maintain a supercomputer, it costs huge, huge money.”

The Top 500 has acted as a leading indicator of technology adoption in the channel and in the broader market. And some of the first, high-end adopters of AMD&'s Opteron processors, Intel&'s Xeon processors and IBM clustering technology appear first on the list. Chang, a partner of both AMD and Intel, said the current findings indicate that a hastened transition to those processors is looming in the channel.