AMD-based Supercomputer Named Fastest In the World

Five of the world's fastest supercomputers utilize AMD processors or the vendor's ATI graphics. In total, however, 402 of the world's top 500 systems utilize Intel processors. IBM Power processors are the second most common chips among the top systems, appearing in 52 of the top 500 supercomputers, followed by AMD's Opteron family, which resides in 42 systems.

AMD, flush with victory over arch-rival Intel following last week's settlement of antitrust-related legal action, said Monday that the top three supercomputers in the world run on the company's Opteron processors, pointing to the semiannual list published by the TOP500 Project.

They include the world's fastest supercomputer, a Cray XT5 system known as "Jaguar" in use at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which was recently upgraded to six-core processors from the computer's previous quad-core architecture. Jaguar knocked the previous No. 1 supercomputer, "Roadrunner" from the top spot on the list.

Now the No. 2 computer on the list, the Department of Energy's "Roadrunner" features an IBM chip as its primary processor and also utilizes AMD Opteron technology.

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No. 3 on the list, a Cray XT5 system named "Kraken" that's in use at the University of Tennessee's National Institute for Computational Sciences, also uses AMD Opteron processors, said John Furehe, director of product marketing at AMD's Servers and Workstations division.

Altogether, Furehe said, AMD technology was a part of five of the top 10, 10 of the top 20 and 42 of the top 500 supercomputers, according to the TOP500 Organization

The Jaguar and the Kraken both took their positions in list of fastest supercomputers because they were upgraded from AMD's Barcelona processors to the latest six-core processors, Furehe said. "They both have new performance and better cooling," he said. "This is very important when dealing with thousands of processors."

While the older Cray systems were upgraded to new six-core processors, the next generation of AMD-based supercomputers will eventually be the company's new "Bulldozer" architecture, which includes processors with 16 cores, Furehe said.

Servers built on new processors slated to be released by AMD next year will have ability to be upgraded to the Bulldozer processors, he said.

While AMD could brag about its showing at the very top of the list of world's fastest supercomputers, Furehe admitted that its presence in 42 of the top 500 was one less than last year. Intel meanwhile grew its presence to 402 systems, up from 399 on the June edition of the list.

Furehe said that the technology used in the AMD-based supercomputers was built on the company's 2006 architecture. However, he said, AMD's newly-announced platform, which is coming to market in 2010, will help the company gain ground in the TOP500 list next year, with support for four channels of DDR-3 memory and a move to the second generation of the PCI Express bus.

New processors require new platforms, but existing computers like the Jaguar and the Kraken supercomputers cannot be upgraded, Furehe said.

"But the platforms customers will move to next year will be able to be upgraded to the Bulldozer products in 2011," he said.