Latest Supercomputer Lists Announced

Twice a year, the top500.org website releases a list of the most powerful 500 (known) computers in the world. I say known, because it’s likely that there are government machines up there with the best, but their existence is on a need-to-know basis. IBM systems are traditionally up there, and this time round is no exception: number one slot is occupied by the BlueGene/L system, based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US. Boasting 212,992 processors and 73,728 GB of memory, it has recorded a LINPACK* score of 478.2 teraFLOPS.

That’s quite quick, but what I find more amazing is the rate at which computers no longer become some of the fastest in the world. For example, the HP Cluster Platform 3000 BL460c system currently residing in 500th place on the list (which in itself is no slouch), has a maximum performance rating of 5929.6 gigaFLOPS (i.e. 5.9296 teraFLOPS). Had that computer been in place 12 months ago, it would have ranked at 115th place.

Current projected performance development of the supercomputer list expects that the world’s fastest computer will hit 10 petaFLOPS in 5 years’ time (i.e. 10,000 teraFLOPS). Put that another way, in 5 years’ time, the world’s fastest computer will be faster than all of today’s top 500 put together. For reference, my Intel Core 2 Duo system (which is a reasonably modern and quick system) would achieve around 1500 megaFLOPS, which is 1.5 gigaFLOPS, or 0.0015 teraFLOPS. That’s how far away from your average computer these machines are.

* Even for the very technical readers, the numbers mean very little apart from a means of expressing “how fast” a computer is. LINPACK is a way of measuring that performance.