IBM claims top four 'greenest' supercomputers

Big Blue dominates list of most efficent installations

IBM built the world's fastest supercomputer, and can now lay claim to building 18 of the world's 19 most efficient.

The recently released Green500 ranking takes the list of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers and re-orders them based on efficiency, as measured by performance per watt. No company dominates this metric quite like IBM.

Big Blue's Roadrunner system at the US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory has maintained the lead spot in the Top 500 Supercomputer Sites, which ranks machines by raw speed. But Roadrunner came in fourth place in the green list, behind three other IBM installations.

The world's most efficient is an IBM BladeCenter cluster at the University of Warsaw, which produces 536 MFlops for each watt of energy used. An MFlop is equal to a million floating point operations per second. In terms of raw speed, the Warsaw computer is the 422nd fastest.

Two IBM computers tied for second place in the Green500 list: another machine at the US Energy Department and one at IBM's Poughkeepsie Benchmarking Centre. The first non-IBM machine clocked in at number five; it is the Greatly Reduced Array of Processor Elements with Data Reduction (GRAPE-DR) system at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, which produced 429 Mflops per watt.

IBM's Blue Gene design, introduced two years ago, took every spot on the Green500 list from number six through to number 19, due to various clusters throughout the world that use the technology.

The 20th most efficient supercomputer is an NEC cluster using Intel Xeon processors deployed at the University of Stuttgart. Overall, IBM says it claimed 57 of the top 100 positions on the Green500 list.

The list is published by Green500.org and sponsored by SuperMicro.

The average efficiency of computers on the Green500 list increased 10 percent, from 98 MFlops per watt to 108 MFlops per watt, according to Green500.org. At the same time, aggregate power increased by 15 percent, from 200 to 230 megawatts.

One notable trend is that commodity processors are competing more strongly against custom-made models.

"Four- and six-core commodity processors keep improving in energy efficiency and surpass previous-generation custom processors," according to Green500. "Now, 20 of the top 50 energy-efficient supercomputers utilise commodity processors," the list notes. New Zealand's Weta Digital features on the list, with four of its clusters taking the 393rd equal place. The clusters were placed 140-143 on the Top500 list. The Weta Digital installations use 54.2 MFlops per watt. Some of the supercomputers and clusters ranked on the list aren't named, but are rather labelled according to the industry in which they are operated, such as financial services, IT service provider, telecommunications etcetera. - Additional reporting by David Watson

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