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Top500 supercomputing trends visualized (pictures)

The Top500 list detailing the world's most powerful supercomputers is released twice each year. Here's a look at some trends up through the list released in June 2013.

Stephen Shankland
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Stephen Shankland
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1 of 6 Jack Dongarra

Tianhe-2

Performing more than 33 quadrillion calculations per second, Chinese supercomputer Tianhe-2 claims the top spot in a list of the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world.

Click through the gallery for a look at some of this year’s supercomputing trends.

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2 of 6 Top500.org

Intel processors dominate

Intel processors dominate the Top500 list, though IBM processors are used disproportionately on the most powerful machines. (Note: the vertical access is the percent of the Top500.)

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3 of 6 Top500.org

Improving system performance

The performance of the systems on the Top500 list continues to improve exponentially. (Note that it's a logarithmic scale on the vertical axis, with each line marking a tenfold improvement.) The three series of dots here represent the total performance of the top 500 systems at the top, the performance of the No. 1 system in the middle, and the performance of the 500th system at the bottom.
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4 of 6 Top500.org

System design

The system design of the Top500 supercomputers has changed over the years. In the 1990s, symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) and massively parallel processing (MPP) systems dominated, but now most systems are clusters, which use a looser interconnection among server nodes than MPP machines. (Note: the vertical access is the percent of the Top500.)
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5 of 6 Top500.org

InfiniBand and Ethernet losing ground

The June 2013 Top500 list shows that the dominance of InfiniBand and Ethernet as the means to connect processing nodes in a supercomputing cluster are losing some ground to other technologies.
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6 of 6 Top500.org

Top accelerators

Supercomputers these days are getting a speed boost from special purpose helper processors called accelerators. Nvidia's graphics processing unit (GPU) chips, repurposed to perform numeric computations, are the most common.

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