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TOP500 List of Supercomputers Released – How good is Linux?

With four times more power than the next competitor, Japan’s K Computer (and Linux) remains at the top of the TOP500 List.

The TOP500 List is is released each June and November and compiled by representatives from the University of Mannheim in Germany, NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In June, when the 37th TOP500 List was released, Japan’s new K Computer took the top spot even though it was only partially built. The first supercomputer to achieve 10 quadrillion calculations per second (10 Petaflops/s), the K Computer has the highest power consumption but is still one of the most energy efficient systems on the list.

All of the Top 10 supercomputers on the newest list held the spots they had back in June. TOP500 editor Erich Strohmaier says that this is the first time in the list’s history, which dates back to 1993, that the top 10 systems showed no turnover.

The US, Japan, and China dominate the top 10 list, with a French supercomputer placing ninth on the list. Half of the top 10 list are US systems, with the Cray XT5 system, Jaguar, coming in third, behind China’s NUDT YH MPP system at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin.

China Moves Ahead

In all, 263 entries from the United States made the list, 30 from Japan, and 74 from China, which makes it the number 2 country behind the United States. In November 2010, the US had 276 entries on the list, whereas Japan had 26 and China had 41.

Back in November 2001, 230 entries from the US made the list, and eight of them were in the top 10. Japan had 57 entries, with one coming in at number seven, whereas China only had three with the highest ranking coming in at 150 on the list.

IBM supercomputers took 223 spots on the list this time, and 140 HP systems made the list. Intel provided processors for 76.8 percent of the top 500 systems, followed by 12.6 percent AMD Opteron systems.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory computers claimed three spots in the top 20. In addition to the Jaguar Cray XT5, which ranked number 3 on the list, the Kraken Cray XT5 came in at 11, and the Gaea, a Cray XE6, came in at 20.

Windows in Decline

Linux has dominated the list so long, it’s not even broken out in the statistics when TOP500 lists are announced. With the November 2011 list, Linux holds steady at 457 of the 500. That’s right – 91.4% of the top 500 supercomputers in the world are Linux-based.

Unix has picked up a few systems, though. This time around 30 of the top 500 are UNIX-based, and 11 are of “mixed” operating systems. Windows, however, took a major hit. In June, Windows had a mere 4 systems on the list. This time around, Microsoft Windows is clinging to the TOP500 with one system.

Linux has come a long way in the last 10 years. If you look at the November 2001 list, Linux accounted for only 39 of the TOP500. Unix held 443, and Windows? Well, Microsoft had just one lonely system then too.


The release of the TOP500 List coincides with this week’s SuperComputing 2011 event in Washington. IBM announced a new supercomputing project at the event, Blue Gene/Q, which will provide an ultra-scale technical computing platform that’s expected to predict the path of hurricanes, simulate nuclear weapons performance, and decode gene sequences.

Cray announced the launch of a new scalable lustre storage system, the Cray Sonexion 1300 system. The announcement says that the Cray Sonexion 1300 system scales from approximately 50 terabytes to more than 50 petabytes of usable capacity without compromising performance and features data rates of more than a terabyte per second.

Intel announced that its Intel Xeon E5 processors, which first shipped to supercomputer centers two months ago, now power 10 systems on the TOP500 List. The new E5 family will also power the 10 PFLOPS Stampede system at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, the 1.6 PFLOPS Yellowstone at The National Center for Atmospheric Research, and several other future supercomputers.

NVIDIA’s CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, spoke at the event. NVIDIA announced a new technology, called Maximus, which the company says will combine the professional 3D graphics capability of NVIDIA Quadro GPUs and its Tesla GPUS. “With Maximus engineers, artists, designers or scientists can now interact with high-performance visuals while performing simulations or renderings on the same system – at the same time,” the announcement says. In one case study, Mercedes-Benz used the NVIDIA Maximus platform to transform its design center studio into a parallel processing environment that enabled simultaneous 3D design, simulation, and visualization at the desktop.

Follow the #sc11 hashtag on Twitter for more announcements from this week’s SuperComputing event in Seattle. Or, if you were lucky enough to attend SC11, let us know which announcements and sessions made your top 10 list.

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