Home Business IT Business Telecommunications Nearly every supercomputer runs Linux

Announced earlier today, the 35th list of the top 500 supercomputers contains few surprises, just that Linux has almost total domination of the list.

Just as with the previous list of the Top500 Supercomputers, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Cray XT5 'Jaguar' leads the pack with a sustained performance of 1.76 PFlop/s.  However, a new Chinese entrant called Nebulae has achieved a higher peak performance of 2.98 PFlop/s (compared to Jaguar's peak of 2.33 PFlop/s) and is placed second overall.

Of the 187 new entrants, all but one are running some variant of Linux and in fact 470 of the Top 500 run Linux, 25 some other Unix (mostly AIX) and the remaining 5 run Windows HPC 2008.

The Chinese systems Nebulae and 7th placed Tianhe-1 are both based on a hybrid design with each node comprising a pair of Intel Xeon processors attached to a pair of GPUs (NVidia for Nebulae and AMD for Tianhe-1) as accelerators.  These two systems helped China to take second place for total PFlop/s (9.2%), still trailing USA with 55.4%.

Australia has just one entry in the list, the Bureau of Meteorology / CSIRO HPCCC system occupying position 112 and running the CentOS operating system.  Down one from the previous list, New Zealand systems hold 7 places - 6 of which are located at Peter Jackson's WETA Studios (the machine to fall off the list was a lesser system also at WETA).  WETA has five identical supercomputers which fell from position 193 in November 2009 to 279 in the current list.

Highlights, as described in the press release, include:

# The entry level to the list moved up to the 24.7 teraflop/s mark on the Linpack benchmark from 20 teraflop/s six months ago [this is a performance ratio in excess of 70:1 between the 1st and 500th systems]. The last system on the newest list would have been listed at position 357 in the previous TOP500 just six months ago. This replacement rate was far below average. This might reflect the impact of the recession and purchase delays due to anticipation of new products with six or more core processor technologies replacing current quad-core based systems.

# Quad-core processor based systems have saturated the TOP500 with now 425 systems using them. However, processor with six or more cores per processor can already be found in 25 systems.

# Intel dominates the high-end processor market 81.6 percent of all systems and over 90 percent of quad-core based systems.

# The Intel Core i7 (Nehalem-EP) processors increased their presence in the list with 186 systems compared with 95 in the last list.

# Quad-core processors are used in 85 percent of the systems and 5 percent use already processors with six or more cores.

Further information, including a full performance spreadsheet may be obtained at the Top500 website.




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David Heath

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David Heath has over 25 years experience in the IT industry, specializing particularly in customer support, security and computer networking. Heath has worked previously as head of IT for The Television Shopping Network, as the network and desktop manager for Armstrong Jones (a major funds management organization) and has consulted into various Australian federal government agencies (including the Department of Immigration and the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence). He has also served on various state, national and international committees for Novell Users International; he was also the organising chairman for the 1994 Novell Users' Conference in Brisbane. Heath is currently employed as an Instructional Designer, building technical training courses for industrial process control systems.






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