Despite its huge lead, challengers are already on the
horizon. The IBM Blue Waters and potentially the Cray XK6 will be its
most likely challengers for the top spot, said Dongarra.
Blue Waters is a joint effort of the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, its National Center for Supercomputing Applications,
IBM, and the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation. It uses
the IBM Power 7, a CPU with eight four-way multithreaded cores—up to
300,000 of them—but the design has faced some delays, Dongarra said.
Blue Waters also uses a new interconnect based on a mixture of ideas
drawn from Infiniband and IBM's proprietary designs. A single IBM hub
chip implementing the interconnect supplies an aggregate 1,128 GBytes/s
peak bandwidth divided up between various nodes, super-nodes and general
The Cray XK6 is a hybrid system using AMD x86 processors and Nvidia GPUs. It will also use a custom interconnect.
Intel, Ethernet still dominate
For the first time, all of the top 10 systems achieved petaflop-level performance. The U.S. leads with five systems performing at that level, Japan and China have two each and France has one.
Intel continues to dominate the list with its chips in 387 (77.4 percent) of Top 500 systems, slightly down from 398 systems (79.6 percent) six months ago. Intel’s Westmere processors are now used in 169 systems, up from 56 in the November rankings.
AMD follows with 65 systems (13.0 percent), up from 57. IBM trails with its Power processors in 45 systems (9.0 percent), up from 40.
CPUs with six or more cores are now in 212 systems (42.4 percent) with most of the rest (231 system, 46.2 percent) using quad-core chips.
Gigabit Ethernet is still the most-used internal system interconnect technology used in 233 systems, up from 227 systems. It is followed by Infiniband in 205 systems, down from 214 systems. However, Infiniband-based systems account for almost twice as much performance (23.0 petaflops) than Gigabit Ethernet ones (11.6 petaflops).
IBM and Hewlett-Packard continue to sell the bulk of the systems at all performance levels of the Top 500. IBM has 213 systems (42.6 percent) on the current list, compared to HP with 153 systems (30.4 percent). HP had 158 systems (31.6 percent) six months ago, compared to IBM with 200 systems (40 percent).
The U.S. is the leading user of supercomputers with 256 of the 500 systems (down from 274). Europe is home to 125 systems, and Asia has 103 systems--up from 84.
China keeps increasing its number of systems and is now up to 62, making it clearly the second largest user of supercomputers, ahead of Germany, the UK, Japan and France.