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Top 10 Supercomputers, Illustrated, Nov. 2013


Here's our visual guide to the November 2013 Top500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

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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 earlier today at the SC13 supercomputing conference in Denver.

MILKY WAY 2, Guangzhou Supercomputing Center


A look at the new supercomputing champion, the Tinahe-2 (Milky Way 2) system from China.

This powerful Chinese supercomputer remains firmly seated atop the Top500. The Milkyway 2 system (also known as Tianhe-2) is the world’s new number one system with a performance of  33.86 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second) on the Linpack benchmark,, well ahead of the runner-up Titan supercomputer. A proprietary optoelectronics hybrid transport interconnect technology and global shared parallel storage system containing 12.4 petabytes round out the specifications. The Milkway 2 system uses 32,000 Intel Ivy Bridge Xeon sockets and 48,000 Xeon Phi boards for a total of 3,120,000 cores, making it the largest installation of Intel Ivy Bridge processors and Intel Phi coprocessors. Phi is Intel’s Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture for highly parallel workloads. The Tianhe-2 system will have a peak power consumption under load of 17 megawatts.

TITAN SUPERCOMPUTER, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is now in second position on the Top500. (Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

The ex-champ remains the runner-up. After leading the Top500 in November 2013, the Titan supercomputer, a Cray XK7 system installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, holds down the number two spot with a Linpack benchmark of 17.59 Petaflops (quadrillions of calculations per second) on the Linpack benchmark. Titan has 560,640 processing cores, including 261,632 NVIDIA K20x accelerator cores. The 200-cabinet Cray supercomputer has a second life, having ruled the Top 500 as Jaguar. The system has been overhauled with faster hardware and networking system, and taken on a new name to reflect its super-charged capabilities. Titan has been accelerated by a hybrid computing architecture teaming traditional central processing units (CPUs) from AMD with the high-speed graphics processing units (GPUs) from NVIDIA to create a faster and more efficient machine. Each of Titan’s 200 cabinets will require up to 54 kilowatts of power, an intense high-density load. The system is cooled with an advanced cooling system developed by Cray, which uses both water and refrigerants.  Titan is one of the most energy efficient systems on the list, consuming a total of 8.21 MW and delivering 2,143 Mflops/W. The ECOPhlex (short for PHase-change Liquid Exchange) cooling system uses two cooling loops, one filled with a refrigerant (R-134a ), and the other with chilled water.

SEQUOIA SUPERCOMPUTER, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Sequoia is an the LLNL system that is now the third-most pwoerful supercomputer in the world. (Photo: IBM)

In the third position is Sequoia, the champ in the June 2012 Top 500, a Blue Gene/Q supercomputer built on IBM Power architecture at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Californa. Sequoia consists of 96 racks; 98,304 compute nodes, 1.6 million cores and 1.6 petabytes of memory, and achieved 17.17 petaflop/s on the Linpack benchmark. Sequoia is also one of the most energy efficient systems on the list, consuming a total of 7.84 MW and delivering 2,031.6 Mflops/W.The National Nuclear Security Administration uses Sequoia to research the safety, security and reliability of the United States’ nuclear deterrent, replacing the need for underground testing.

K SUPERCOMPUTER, RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS), Japan

The “K” supercomputer, a two-time Top 500 champion, is once again the number four system. Installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe, Japan, the K Computer it achieved an impressive 10.51 Petaflop/s on the Linpack benchmark using 705,024 SPARC64 processing cores. The K Computer is  joint project by Fujitsu and the RIKEN center, and was the first supercomputer to achieve a performance level of 10 Petaflop/s, or 10 quadrillion calculations per second. The K computer had taken the No. 1 position in both June 2011 and November 2011. The K computer is now supported by a 6 megawatt gas turbine cogeneration system, part of the electrical facilities at RIKEN.

MIRA SUPERCOMPUTER, Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois

A look at the cabinets for the Mira supercomputer in Argonne National Laboratory (Photo: IBM/ANL)

Mira, a Blue Gene/Q-based system housed at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) remains the fifth-fastest system in the world. Mira is being used to significantly advance science and industry. Mira has 48 racks and 786,432 processors, and weigh 104 tons, and reached  8.59 petaflop/s on the Linpack benchmark.  Under the umbrella of Argonne’s Early Science Program, Mira assists research in earthquake modeling, quantum mechanics, the effect of clouds on the climate, and materials science. Any researcher in the world can apply for time on Mira to run programs for their experiments.

Continue to see numbers 6 through 10 in the Top500

We continue our illustrated review of the top finishers in the latest Top 500 list, which was released Monday at the SC13 conference in Denver. See part one for images of the five most powerful machines. We continue at number six.



The sole newcomer to this year's top 10 is Piz Daint, which has been installed at CSCS, the Swiss national supercomputing center. The system is named for a striking mountain that dominates the Val Müstair, in close proximity to the Swiss national park. Piz Daint is a  Cray XC30 mode boasting 4'512 processors with 36,096 compute cores. It clocked in at 6.27P/flops on Linpack. The system has been in operation at CSCS since April 2013, and is currently being expanded with graphic processing units (GPUs). In this extension, one of the two conventional processors (CPU) on a compute node is being replaced by an NVIDIA Tesla GPU. The CSCS says preliminary results show that this supercomputer is running operations over three times faster and that is performing at up to seven times more energy-efficiently than current systems.

STAMPEDE, Texas Advanced Computing Center


The Stampede supercomputer is housed in nearly 200 cabinets in a new data center at the Texas Advanced Computing center in Austin. (Photo: TACC)

Next up in the Top 10 is Stampede, housed at the Texas Advanced Computing Center in Austin. The upgraded Stampede system spans nearly 200 cabinets at the TACC facility in Austin, Texas and hit 5.17 petaflops/s on Linpack, falling back to seventh place with the debut of Piz Daint. Stampede runs on Dell PowerEdge C8220 servers using the Xeon E5 chips featuring Intel's Phi coprocessors and architecture, and will be one of the largest computing systems in the world for open science research. Stampede is powered by an x86 cluster featuring Dell dual-socket C8220x “Zeus” servers with 32 GB of RAM. Each socket holds an 8-core, 2.7 Ghz Intel Xeon E5processor. With 6,400 nodes, the system brings 102,400 cores to bear on a task. Each Phi coprocessor includes at least 50 more cores.

JUQUEEN SUPERCOMPUTER, Jülich Supercomputing Centre

In the eighth position on the Top500 is JuQueen, the system at the Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ) supercomputing center in Germany, whose JuGENE system previously held a spot in the top 10. The structure of the Blue Gene/Q is similar to that of the Blue Gene/P with increased performance metrics and on-board water cooling.

VULCAN, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


Pictured with the Vulcan supercomputer are Fred Streitz, director of the High Performance Computing Innovation Center (HPCIC), and Doug East, deputy director of the HPCIC. (Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Checking in at ninth place is Vulcan, clocking in at 4.3 petaflop/s. Housed in the high performance computing facility at Livermore Labs in California, Vulcan consists of 24 racks, 24,576 compute nodes and 393,216 compute cores. A 5 petaflops (quadrillion floating point operations per second) IBM Blue Gene/Q system, Vulcan supports Livermore's High Performance Computing (HPC) Innovation Center as well as academic collaborations in support of DOE/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) missions. During its shakeout period, Vulcan was combined with the larger Sequoia system, producing some breakthrough computation, notably setting a world speed record of 504 billion events per second for a discrete event simulation - a collaboration with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). This achievement opens the way for the scientific exploration of complex, planetary-sized systems.

SUPERMUC SUPERCOMPUTER, Leibniz Rechenzentrum, Munich, Germany

The SuperMUC system at the The Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) weighs in at number 10e on the November list. It was built with IBM System x iDataPlex Direct Water Cooled dx360 M4 servers with more than 150,000 cores to provide a peak performance of nearly three petaflops, which is equivalent to the work of more than 110,000 personal computers. The SuperMUC system is Europe's fastest computer, and will be used to drive a wide spectrum of research - from simulating the blood flow behind an artificial heart valve, to devise quieter airplanes to unearthing new insights in geophysics, including the understanding of earthquakes.