The Top 10 Supercomputers, Illustrated

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The twice-a-year list of the Top 500 supercomputers documents the most powerful systems on the planet. Many of these supercomputers are striking not just for their processing power, but for their design and appearance as well. Here’s a look at the top finishers in the latest Top 500 list, which was released Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010 ahead of the SC10 conference.

TIANHE-1A, National Supercomputing Center, Tianjin, China

The Tianhe-1A, the most powerful supercomputer in the world as of November 2010.

The Chinese Tianhe-1A system at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin earned the top spot, achieving a performance level of 2.57 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second). Tianhe-1A is one of the 17 systems in the Top 500 that use NVIDIA GPUs (graphics processing units) to accelerate computation. China is also accelerating its move into high performance computing and now has 42 systems on the Top 500 list, moving past Japan, France, Germany and the UK to become the number two country behind the U.S., which has 275 of the top 500 supercomputers.

JAGUAR, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

jaguar-470

Jaguar has been knocked from the top spot it occupied in the June 2010 survey, ranking second with a 1.75 petaflop performance speed running the Linpack benchmark. Jaguar is a Cray XT5 system located at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility in Tennessee. While Jaguar fell a few flops short this year, it retains a leadership position in supercomputing style with its striking Jaguar motif.

NEBULAE, China


Nebulae, which is located at the National Supercomputing Centre in Shenzhen, China, achieved 1.271 PFlop/s to rank third overall, down one position from the June survey. Nebulae was built from a Dawning TC3600 Blade system with Intel X5650 processors and NVIDIA Tesla C2050 GPU.

TSUBAME 2.0, GSIC Center, Tokyo Institute of Technology

The Tsubame supercomputer at the Tokyo Institute of Technology

Like the top-ranked Tianhe system, Tsubame 2.0 is a successor system that builds upon the design of a previously-ranked system. Tsubame 2.0 was developed by the Tokyo Institute of Technology in collaboration with NEC and HP, and is powered by more than 1,400 nodes using both HP Proliant servers and NVIDIA Tesla GPUs. It is Japan’s highest-ranked supercomputer. Plans are being developed for Tsubame 3.0.

HOPPER, NERSC at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs

The top new U.S. entry in the latest Top 500 is Hopper, named for American computer scientist Grace Hopper, which will power science research at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center’s (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. Hopper is powered by the Cray XE6 system.  A pioneer in the field of software development and programming languages, Hopper created the first compiler. The Hopper system clocked in at 1.05 petaflop/s.

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