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Roadrunner continues to outpace supercomputing field

The IBM system at Los Alamos retains the lead it nabbed a year ago as the most powerful supercomputer in the world.

IBM Roadrunner Top500 supercomputer
Roadrunner maintains its lead as the fastest supercomputer in the world. IBM

Despite the Jaguar nipping at its heels, Roadrunner continues to speed past the supercomputing pack.

That's according to the twice yearly Top500 list of the fastest supercomputers in the world, which is to be announced Tuesday morning at the 2009 International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany. The list is released in June and November every year.

The IBM supercomputer housed at the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, known as Roadrunner, maintains the lead it grabbed a year ago. The computer can process 1.105 petaflop/s, or quadrillions of floating point operations per second, according to the Top500 Linpack benchmark. Hot on its heels for the second year in a row is the Cray XT5 Jaguar system at the DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which clocked in at 1.059 petaflop/s.

Despite the consistency of those top two systems, there were some newcomers to the top 10 of the list of 500 this year, and not from within the U.S. The new IBM computer, known as JUGENE, installed at Forschungszentrum Juelich in Germany hit 825.5 teraflop/s, or trillions of floating point operations per second, which was good enough for third place on the list. Forschungszentrum Juelich also is home to the 10th place supercomputer, JUROPA, which is a combination of Bull Novascale and Sun Sunblade x6048 servers. It achieved 274.8 teraflop/s.

The rest of the top 10 fastest computers in the world are all housed in the U.S. But some notable international sites are demanding attention. An IBM BlueGene/P system at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia took 14th place, while the Dawning 5000A at the Shanghai Supercomputer Center in China took 15th place.

The threshold to get on the Top500 list this year got increasingly tough. The slowest computer on the list hit 17.1 teraflop/s, when six months ago the slowest computer on the list achieved 12.64 teraflop/s. That also means the total combined power of the 500 supercomputers is faster than ever at 22.6 petaflop/s. Six months ago the top 500 hit 16.95 petaflop/s, and 11.7 petaflop/s a year ago.

Despite holding some of the top spots, IBM's overall dominance as the top supplier of servers for these supercomputers has been eclipsed by Hewlett-Packard. While IBM leads in overall installed performance, HP has the greater market share at 212 to IBM's 188.

Inside those servers, Intel has the lion's share of processors, with just under 80 percent, or 399 of the top 500. IBM Power processors are the second-most popular, and can be found in 55 of the systems.

The Top 10 List:

• Roadrunner, IBM, Los Alamos National Laboratory (1.105 petaflop/s)
• Jaguar, Cray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (1.059 petaflop/s)
• JUGENE, IBM, Forschungszentrum Juelich (825.5 teraflop/s)
• Pleiades, SGI, NASA Ames Research Center (487.01 teraflop/s)
• BlueGeneL, IBM, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (478.2 teraflop/s)
• Kraken XT5, Cray, National Institute for Computational Sciences (463.3 teraflop/s)
• BlueGene/P, IBM, Argonne National Laboratory (458.61 teraflop/s)
• Ranger, Sun, Texas Advanced Computing Center (433.20 teraflop/s)
• Dawn, IBM, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (415.70 teraflop/s)
• JUROPA, Bull SA, Forschungszentrum Juelich (274.80 teraflop/s)