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Supercomputing Hardware Technology

The Top 10 Supercomputers, Illustrated 68

Posted by timothy
from the sorry-no-centerfold dept.
1sockchuck writes "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 visual guide to the top finishers in the latest Top 500 list, which was released this week at the SC11 conference."
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The Top 10 Supercomputers, Illustrated

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  • by sjwt (161428) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @07:05AM (#38115300)

    What a let down, I was hoping to see a visual guide to these, you know something like how many small European countries would need to be covered in Cray 1's to equal there power!

    • yeah, i too expected graphs and graphics comparing performance, memory, etc. not small un-zoomable pictures.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    At last! Something to run Crysis at an acceptable frame rate!

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @07:16AM (#38115336)
    Would the computers be a little cheaper without all the ornate decorative racks? Though I must admit TERA-100 looks quite stylish.
    • Re:Nice rack. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mikael (484) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:18AM (#38115746)

      Looking at some photograph ,I see your point - something plain or just black with some blinkenlighten like the Connection Machine would have been enough.

      Though, when you buy a system like that, the cost isn't the hardware, it's the field and support engineers available 24/7, customer support, projects and power consumption that are the big costs. There used to be a joke, "Buy a super-computer from us, and we'll throw the building in for free".

      Modern day supercomputer systems use a standardized rack frame system and intercommunication fabric so that the oldest and slowest nodes can be pulled out, while the newest and fastest ones can be slotted in straight away. That removes the overhead of having to construct a new building, power supply system, air conditioning and network infrastructure just to do a simple upgrade.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gentryx (759438) *

        Though, when you buy a system like that, the cost isn't the hardware, it's the field and support engineers available 24/7, customer support, projects and power consumption that are the big costs. There used to be a joke, "Buy a super-computer from us, and we'll throw the building in for free"

        Wrong. Actually, current systems (e.g. Blue Waters) easily cost $200 mio. to procure, and that is just the hardware and support for 1 year, excluding staff, power etc.

        Modern day supercomputer systems use a standardized rack frame system and intercommunication fabric so that the oldest and slowest nodes can be pulled out, while the newest and fastest ones can be slotted in straight away. That removes the overhead of having to construct a new building, power supply system, air conditioning and network infrastructure just to do a simple upgrade.

        Sorry, but wrong again. Modern supercomputers quite often use custom interconnects (e.g. Cray's Seastar or Gemini or Fujitsu's Tofu). Also, as K and Jaguar show, the cooling solutions are commonly custom, too. This is because node density is growing exponentially and off-the-shelf interconnects and cooling can't keep up with this.

        • by mikael (484)

          Thanks for that info. Maybe different supercomputer centers have different purchasing requirements, especially those that can't expand space or have be really cost-effective.

          Guess things are just remaining as they are. That's why they had/have custom buildings - they would house the custom cooling system, custom interconnects as well as power supplies as well as offices for the engineers.

    • by KalvinB (205500)

      They would be cheaper obviously but when you're spending millions on the systems themselves, you might as well throw in a few bucks extra to make the container look nice.

    • It is unfortunate that all the ones large enough to head the list are basically standard racks in rows with attractive door art.

      Mare Nostrum [www.bsc.es] is comparatively small; but the 'glass pod full of ebon supercomputer modules seemingly suspended in a historic Spanish chapel' effect is pretty neat...
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @07:21AM (#38115356)

    Supercomputer seller: "What do you want in your supercomputer?"

    Supercomputer buyer: "640K petaflop/s, Intel Gargantuaium nodes, POWER9 nodes, SPARC and Kindle nodes . . . "

    Supercomputer seller: "Anything else . . . ?"

    Supercomputer buyer: " . . . a shrubbery! One that looks nice . . . and not too expensive . . . "

    Supercomputer seller: "Um . . . okay . . . "

    Supercomputer buyer: ". . . and . . . another shrubbery . . . only a bit higher, so we get the two level effect, with a path down the middle for the service technician to walk along . . . "

    Supercomputer seller: "Your supercomputer shall be the fastest in the world . . . for a few weeks, anyway . . . and it will look nice!"

    What if Apple built a supercomputer? Those accessories would cost a fortune, but you could really flaunt them to the supercomputing community.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @07:30AM (#38115398) Journal

    adventure game utilising the combined resources of these machines.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think the top botnets already have that amount of resources. Although their interconnect is obviously far slower.

      *imagines a "supercomputer" with pigeon "interconnects"* ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All I saw were boxes with fancy paint jobs - and some not so fancy. What's the big deal?The Crays at least were tubular with a seat around them - like a bus or train station bench. Come on! How a spherical super computer? That would have the shortest paths between sub sections, too!

    Or something out of Fuller's designs?

    Boxes?!? Geeze! Get some imagination!

    • Most supercomputers have changed to a distributive design those round designs means you cannot cram more hardware in an area meaning a longer bus connection per node.

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @07:58AM (#38115482)

    A Top500 site where Petaflop count takes second place to aesthetic appeal.

    Let's have Hypercubes, spheres, ultraflats, invisibles, ultraquiets, computers-as-furniture, computers-as-art, cyberpunk, retro; let your imagination run riot.

    Just remember, it was my idea [freeforums.org].

    • by RicktheBrick (588466) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:05AM (#38115972)
      What would be nice is a ranking on how much the supercomputer has accomplished. If they were ranked by how much they have saved their nations in any number of categories, such as reduced costs or better designs or better medicine. I have also read that programmers are struggling to create programs that use these supercomputers at their given speed. It could be like most home computers that these super computers are mostly idling. It would also be nice if the article was accurate. I quote "It is Japan’s highest-ranked supercomputer. Plans are being developed for Tsubame 3.0." The K super computer is Japanese so it would be Japan's highest ranked supercomputer.
  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @08:56AM (#38115640)

    When did the Top500 become a competition to see who could paint the prettiest picture on the side of a rack alleyway. I clicked the link expecting to see cables, guts, sweet AC units, and other nerd porn.

    Instead I got something designed by a marketing department and in some cases just graphical rendering.

    Nerd pleasing fail!

    • by archen (447353)

      For that matter, I'd paint the outside so that it looks like a real sci-fi super computer, tape reels and all. As long as someone says "man that looks complicated" it's mission accomplished. That's why you pay the big bucks right?

    • by cthulhu11 (842924)
      ... and I swear that one image that claimed to be HP systems looked a lot like racks full of Sun x4600-series systems. I fear that we'll never stop mistakenly referring to clusters of computers as a supercomputer.
  • How far we've come! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by martyb (196687) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:44AM (#38115860)

    The first top 500 list was published in June 1993 [top500.org]. The fastest computer on that list was a CM-5/1024 made by Thinking Machines Corporation. It was rated at: 59.70 Rmax(GFs) and 131.00 Rpeak(GFs).

    Last place on that first top 500 list [top500.org] (scroll down) was held by a VP-200 made by Fujitsu/SNI which had 1 core and was rated at 0.422 Rmax(GFs) and 0.533 Rpeak(GFs).

    I've heard the expression about carrying a supercomputer in your pocket - how close are we? I'd expect most of the latest Android/iPhone/smartphones can beat that last-place finisher from 1993. I'm doubtful that any of these devices could beat that first place finisher, but I suspect desktops (especially with GPUs) should be there by now. If you're are interested, you can get the software from here [top500.org].

    Any takers? How does YOUR system compare?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      An Intel i5-2500K will push 50-60 GFLOPS. Over a hundred with overclocking, optimal memory settings, optimized software etc.

      A modern graphics card can do over 1 TFLOPS if the workload is suitable for parallel processing.

      So yes, you've got a supercomputer on your desktop. Probably even in your pocket.

    • Good question (Score:5, Informative)

      by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:19PM (#38118472) Journal

      The Tegra 3 chip that's showing up in phones this spring and Transformer Prime tablet now is about 7.2 GFLOPs [anandtech.com]. That's more than enough to be top 10 in 1993. Current ARM architectures might go all the way up to fast enough to take that number one spot in reference sample designs now but they consume too much power to go in your pocket on retail shelves as yet. Maybe in a year or two.

      Mali T658 [hothardware.com] and PowerVR [imgtec.com] are two to watch here. Mali is supposed to go up to 350 GFLOPs. It still amazes me that in 1993 that machine cost about $70 million [chrisvernon.co.uk] in today's money and you can almost match it today for under $500.

  • Kind of cool!
  • isn't it weird that there's such a huge difference between #1 and #2?
    #1 K computer --> 705k cores, 1,410,048 Gb memory, 11,280,384 Rpeak(GFs)
    #2 Tianhe-1A --> 186k cores, 229,376 Gb memory, 4,701,000 Rpeak(GFs)

    K has ~6x the memory, ~6x the cores, and ~3x the Rpeak of Tianhe!

  • 1) These are just the ones we KNOW about.
    2) The real #1 is still the human brain.
    • 2) The real #1 is still the human brain.

      Somehow I doubt that the human brain can beat these system in a Linpack benchmark.

  • by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:33PM (#38116882)
    There used to be an easy-to-find graph showing the improvement over time of number one, number 500, and the total of 1-500. It gave me warm fuzzies to see the steady increase. I can't find that chart anymore. Help?
  • by decora (1710862) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @01:01PM (#38117100) Journal

    the NSA has always been at the forefront of supercomputing, and it has always been incredibly secretive about it.

    who knows about other nations intelligence agencies

    • by Anonymous Coward

      the NSA has always been at the forefront of supercomputing, and it has always been incredibly secretive about it.

      who knows about other nations intelligence agencies

      Until the day arrives when the NSA declassifies some of the super-powerful technology it's supposed to always have, my bet is that they only have slightly evolved versions of what you see here.

      The NSA has no processor foundries. They have no manufacturing plants. They don't have chip designers on staff (or, at least, not very many.) The amount of money they'd have to pay to get custom super-parts developed is dwarfed by the billions and billions spent to improve commodity architectures. There's just no way

      • citation needed (Score:5, Interesting)

        by decora (1710862) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:40PM (#38118700) Journal

        according to James Bamford's books, especially the last two, they actually did have a chip foundry, they have been at the top of several supercomputer programs, and they are the only reason that CRAY survived in a capitalist economy where massive supercomputing R&D doesn't have a quick ROI.

        we don't know what they have today. but we know what they had in the past, vs what everyone thought was going on in the past. and what everyone thought was wrong.

  • So we get to see a room full of racks.. Oh, some painted the racks pretty colors.. *yawn*

    Sure, their raw power is impressive, but pictures of server racks?

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