Tech Industry

Supercomputer giants stand tall in rankings

IBM remains in second place as IDC's new rankings show NEC's Earth Simulator is still in the top slot for the most powerful computing system.

A supercomputer in Japan that ties together 5,120 processors has widened its lead as the world's most powerful computer under a revised series of tests from market researcher IDC.

The Framingham, Mass., research group on Thursday detailed its IDC Balanced Rating for rating computers and computing clusters in four separate categories. While the published list has the top 50 computers in each of four categories--which are based around the size of the organization the computer is designed to serve--the analyst firm tested almost 900 machines.

"Our goal is to document as many of the world's installed high-performance computing systems as possible and make the data available for free to the," Earl Joseph II, research director for worldwide systems and servers, said in a statement.

The most powerful computer is the Earth Simulator, created by Japanese computing giant NEC as part of an initiative sponsored by Japan's Science and Technology Agency (now called the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology). The supercomputer can manage 35 trillion operations per second.

The computer beats out IBM's ASCI White computer with 8,192 processors by a wide margin. The Earth Simulator scored more than 40,000 points on the new rating system, while IBM grabbed 4,900 points.

IDC's new rating system combines several metrics of performance, including three benchmarks of processor performance, two measures of memory effectiveness, and an evaluation of the scaling capability of each system. IDC had previously created the yardstick used to evaluate the top 500 computers in the world, and since then has refined its system to better represent the computing power of each machine, including adding a measure of integer performance.

The market research firm also received more data from computer makers this time around, leading to some shifting in rankings. Cray, for example, had about half of the top 500 computers in the world when IDC and released their report last November. Now, after other computer makers released more data on their systems, Cray grabbed just 20 percent.

HP also gained a lot of ground following its successful merger with Compaq Computer, Joseph said. The new merged company is now neck and neck with IBM for having the most high-powered computers on the list.

Joseph added that such shifts in the rankings caused a lot of bad blood. "We were hoping to release the rankings in January," he said. "But for the past four months, we have been dealing with the sour grapes from vendors."

The top computers in the other categories are IBM's eServer pSeries p690 for enterprise servers costing more than $1 million, Hewlett-Packard's SuperDome with PA-8700 processors running at 750MHz for divisional servers costing less than $1 million, and HP's rp8400 using PA-8700 processors running at 650MHz for servers costing under $250,000.