New Supercomputer Top 500 List Tracks Power

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The updated list of the world’s top 500 supercomputers was released yesterday, and includes energy efficiency data about these powerful systems, as noted by ComputerWorld (link via Dave Ohara). Jack Dongarra, a professor at the University of Tennessee and co-creator of the Top 500 list, said that the supercomputers of the future may require as much as 100 megawatts of power. Systems under development at Oak Ridge National Lab will have annual power bills of more than $30 million when they debut in 2012. An excerpt:

“Power consumption is becoming one of the most important aspects of computing,” said Dongarra. “It will be the most important driving force for supercomputing in the future. Without focusing on that, building bigger machines will be prohibitive. We’re trying to understand which machines are more efficient, why they’re more efficient, and understand the trends in high-performance computing.”

The good news: the most powerful systems are also the most energy efficient, reflecting the benefits of the latest technology.


That trend was on display in an analysis of the power efficiency of the top 500. The key findings:

  • The average power consumption of a Top 10 system is 1.32 megawatts and average power efficiency is 248 Mflops/Watt.
  • The average power used by a Top 50 system is 908 Kwatt, with average power efficiency is 193 Mflops/Watt.
  • The power consumption of the entire Top 500 averaged 257 kwatt, with an average power efficiency is 122 Mflops/Watt.

The most energy efficient supercomputers are based on IBM’s QS22 Cell processor blades (up to 488 Mflops/Watt), followed by IBM BlueGene/P systems at up to 371 Mflops/Watt.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.