IBM, HP share bragging rights on supercomputer list

IBM still has the fastest supercomputer on the planet, but HP surpassed it in the number of supercomputers, according to an industry survey out Wednesday.

IBM still operates the fastest supercomputer in the industry, but rival HP has more of them in operation, according to a closely watched global survey.

HP has passed IBM in the number of supercomputers in operation and enjoys the largest market share, according to a list of the Top 500 supercomputers that was compiled by university computer researchers in the US and Germany. But IBM's Blue Gene/L supercomputer, installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, ranked first on the list and IBM claims it is the market share leader when vendors are ranked by combined computing performance.

The biannual list was released to coincide with the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany.

HP grew its market share to 40.4 per cent with 202 systems, while IBM's share fell to 38.4 per cent with 192 systems. In the previous report in November 2006, IBM's share was 47.2 per cent with 236 systems, to HP's 31.6 per cent with 158 systems.

IBM said it held a 42 per cent share of the supercomputer market when it was based on the combined processing power of each vendor's equipment. Its Blue Gene/L took the number one spot with a "sustained performance" of 280.6 trillion operations per second, or teraflops. Flops is an acronym for "floating point operations per second", a measure of computing performance.

This week, IBM announced a new supercomputer, Blue Gene/P, which will have three times the processing power of the Blue Gene/L. A two-rack test model of the P made it into the top 30 on the list, achieving 20.86 teraflops (T flops), although IBM said that properly configured, the P may be able to hit 3 petaflops (P flops), or 1000 trillion calculations per second.

Sun Microsystems, which held only a 1.4 per cent share with only seven systems deployed, is making a concerted effort to pursue the supercomputer market. Sun announced this week that it was building a supercomputer, codenamed Constellation, which was designed to reach 1P flops. It is building Constellation at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas in Austin. Sun received $US29.6 million of a total $US59 million National Science Foundation grant to build Constellation, while the balance of $US29.4 million will go towards operational costs, according to a TACC spokesperson.

The Top Five Supercomputer systems in the latest survey, their manufacturer, the number of processors and the user are as follows:

1. IBM, 131,072, US Department of Energy-Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
2. IBM, 40,960, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center.
3. IBM, 12,208, DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
4. Silicon Graphics, 10,160, NASA Ames Research Center.
5. Bull SA, 8704, Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA) in France

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