The big news from the June 2008 TOP500 tradeshow was the breaking of the petaflop barrier by the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory where IBM is to design and build ‘Roadrunner,’ a $100 million, ‘hybrid’ supercomputer. The hybrid tag indicates that Roadrunner’s architecture comprises 6,562 dual-core AMD Opteron chips and 12,240 IBM Cell Broadband Engine. The system has 98 terabytes of memory. Computations are routed to the Cell processors. Roadrunner operates on open-source Linux software from Red Hat.
Also of note was Microsoft’s entry into the Top500—at number 23. NCSA’s ‘Abe’ is a dual boot Linux/Windows Server 2008 machine with 9,600 cores. Running in its Windows mode, Abe was clocked at 68 teraflops. However, despite Microsoft’s grand claims of ‘dominance’ of HPC (Oil ITJ March 2007) its overall share of the TOP500 ‘cake’ is only 1%. We quizzed Mike Showerman of the NCSA as to the relative merits of Windows and Linux in HPC. Showerman said, ‘At the moment, our workloads are separate, so I do not have any relevant measures of comparison. We hope to have some in the future. Even comparing TOP500 runs would be quite misleading due to some significant differences in supporting libraries and optimization efforts*.’
IBM held five of the top 10 slots, SGI got two (including the Total machine on page 4 of this issue) with Sun, Cray and HP sharing the top of the list.
* A criticism that could probably be made of the whole TOP500 effort.
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