Twice annually, the Universities of Tennessee, and that of Mannheim, Germany release the Top500 list ranking the worlds fastest supercomputers. The overall minimum performance required for a place on the coveted list increased 42 percent since November, 2001. 220 lesser supercomputers were bumped from the list this time - an unusually huge turnover.|
At the top of the list is the Earth Simulator created by NEC. This monster of a computer combines 5,120 Processors and its actually a combination of 640 super computers all tied together using a high speed network with a 12.3 GBytes transfer rate. Each supercomputer of the Earth Simulator, also called a node, contains eight vector processors with a peak performance of 8 GFlops and 16 GBytes of high speed memory. NEC, along with the Japanese government, designed the Earth Simulator to study plate techtonics, and understand and predict global climate change including study of the worlds oceans.
IBM's ASCI White Supercomputer, number 2 on the Top500 list and the previous leader, has a peak performance of only 12.288 TFlops (Trillion Floating point operations per second), or actual performance of 7.266 TFlops; nearly 1/5 of the NEC Earth Simulator. The IBM ASCI White was funded as part of the United States Department of Energy Nuclear program. In addition, the US DOE ASC or Advanced Simulation Computing program also funded the number 6, 7, 9, 11 and 15 supercomputers on the Top500 list. Nuclear simulation was also the reason for the number 4 supercomputer on the list, an entry by the French Nuclear Weapons program. The United Kingdoms' Nuclear Weapons program is also number 11.
The number of supercomputers on the list that are able to perform at least one trillion floating point operations per second rose from 17, to 23, still a far cry from number one and two - which together perform nearly 50 TFlops.
The number one position isn't a small spot to fill however. The NEC Earth Simulator with its 640 supercomputers all tied together occupy roughly enough real estate as 4 tennis courts. An even more interesting fact is that the NEC Earth Simulator is so super-duper that it out performs the entire 1998 Top500 supercomputer list.
Other interesting facts regarding the most recent Top500 list are the following:
Germany is still Europes main supercomputer country.
With 64 machines in the top500, and over 20 TFlops, Germany continues to lead the pack in Europe despite the fastest supercomputer in the region belonging to the French who holds the current #4 spot.
With the merger of Hewlett Packard and Compaq, the new company has the most machines on the top500 list with 168. IBM isn't far behind them with 164.
IBM's new p690 series of supercomputers is beginning to replace the previous Power3 processor systems due to its new Power4 Big Blue processor.
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