Photo finish: IBM inches out Cray in supercomputer race

IBM's Roadrunner big winner in latest Top500 contest, along with Intel, AMD and HP

The latest supercomputer horse race came down to a photo finish.

IBM's Roadrunner inched out Cray's newly beefed-up XT5 Jaguar to retain the top spot on the bi-annual Top500 list of supercomputers. The latest list was released Monday.

Roadrunner, which is installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, had its own upgrade in the past few months, enabling it to hit 1.105 petaflops, or more than a quadrillion mathematical calculations per second. Jaguar, the second of only two computers to break the petaflop barrier, grabbed second place on the list, with a top performance of 1.059 petaflops running the Linpack benchmark application.

"That was really quite a thing," said Jack Dongarra, a co-creator of the Top500 list and a distinguished professor at the University of Tennessee. "Ultimately, both machines are incredibly capable systems."

Roadrunner is a hybrid system, running 12,960 IBM PowerXCell 8i Cell Broadband Engine processors and 6,948 AMD Opteron dual-core processors. The Opteron chips handle basic computer functions, while the Cell chips take care of the computations.

Jaguar, on the other hand, runs 45,000 Opteron quad-core chips, which adds up to a total of 180,000 processors.

IBM has been quick to note that while the two machines are so close in performance, Roadrunner uses about half the power that Jaguar does. Roadrunner reportedly uses 2.5 megawatts, compared to Jaguar's 7 megawatts of power consumption.

But Dongarra says the comparison needs to go deeper than that. He noted that Jaguar has a lot more memory than Roadrunner, which adds to Jaguar's power consumption. Also, he pointed out that programmers must code software for each the hybrid Roadrunner's different types of processors while Jaguar is a more traditional system, calling for more traditional - and easier -- parallel programming.

"Jaguar will be easier to use and easier to program by a wider group of people." said Dongarra. "Because of programmability, maintenance and support, it may be more cost efficient to use the Cray system."

Dongarra also noted that seven of the top 10 supercomputers on the list are operating at laboratories run by the Department of Energy.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags supercomputers

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?