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The Biggest of the Big: Today's Top 500 Supercomputers

Top500.org releases a semi-annual list of the fastest 500 supercomputers in the world. This gallery covers several of the best of the best.
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By Wally Bahny on
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1 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
At the beginning of June, Top 500.org released their list of the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world. Here are several of the best from that list as well as a look at several breakdowns of the entire group of 500.


Depicted is the Cray XT5 Jaguar, housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Using a standardized test, it operated at 1759 Teraflops (trillion calculations per second). Jaguar runs on AMD Opteron six-core processors operating at 2.6 GHz. It has a total of 224,162 cores. I especially love the image of a jaguar painted on the rack doors.
Photo courtesy National Center for Computational Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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2 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
Following soon after that is another supercomputer owned by the US government, the Roadrunner. Roadrunner, located at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is a BladeCenter cluster running Opteron DC processors at 1.8 GHz. It is made up of 122,400 cores.
Photo courtesy LeRoy Sanchez, Los Alamos National Laboratory and carries the following disclaimer:
Unless otherwise indicated, this information has been authored by an employee or employees of the University of California, operator of the Los Alamos National Laboratory under Contract No. W-7405-ENG-36 with the U.S. Department of Energy. The U.S. Government has rights to use, reproduce, and distribute this information. The public may copy and use this information without charge, provided that this Notice and any statement of authorship are reproduced on all copies. Neither the Government nor the University makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any liability or responsibility for the use of this information.
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3 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
At number four, the Kraken XT5 is also the world's fastest academic supercomputer. Effectively the same computer as the Jaguar XT5 in first place, the Kraken is much smaller having only 98,928 cores. Kraken is funded by the National Institute for Computational Sciences at the University of Tennessee but is housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Also, I love this image too of the Kraken sea creature.
Photo courtesy Daderot.
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4 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
The fifth most powerful supercomputer is also the most powerful in Europe. Housed at German company Forschungszentrum Juelich (which specializes in health, energy, environment, and information technology research), JUGENE is an IBM computer with 294,912 cores.
Photo courtesy Forschungszentrum Juelich.
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NASA's most powerful supercomputer weighs in at number six in the world. Operating 81,920 cores in an SGI system, the Pleiades cranked out 772.70 teraflops and is housed at the NASA Ames Research Center.
Photo courtesy NASA Ames Research Center/Marco Libero.
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6 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
The US government has the next featured supercomputer. Intrepid is an IBM system with 163,840 cores and is housed at the Argonne National Laboratory. It cranked out 458.62 teraflops during the last round of tests.
Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.
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7 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
Sandia National Laboratories has the next supercomputer on the list. Named Red Sky, this Sun Microsystems computer contains 42,440 cores and was measured at 433.50 teraflops. In the picture, Kathye Chavez inspects a component board in one of the many cabinets that make up Sandia’s Red Sky.
Photo courtesy Randy Montoya, Sandia National Laboratories.
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8 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
Appropriately named for a supercomputer in Texas, the Ranger is a Sun Microsystems computer with 42,440 and turning out 433.20 teraflops. It is housed at the Texas Advanced Computer Center at the University of Texas.
Photo courtesy Texas Advanced Computing Center and AMD.
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9 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
The second-most powerful German supercomputer, JUROPA, is also owned and operated by Forschungszentrum Juelich but is a Sun Constellation system containing 26,304 cores and doing only 274.80 teraflops.
Photo courtesy Forschungszentrum Juelich.
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10 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
HECToR, the most powerful British supercomputer, is a Cray XT6m 12-core processor system, but only contains 43,660 cores. It measured at 274.70 teraflops. HECToR, which stands for "High-End Computing Terascale Resource", is housed at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Photo Courtesy the University of Edinburgh.
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11 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
Another Sandia National Laboratories supercomputer, Red Storm is a Cray XT3/XT4 device with 38,208 cores and measuring at 204.20 teraflops.
Photo courtesy Randy Montoya, Sandia National Laboratories.
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12 of 12 Wally Bahny/ZDNet
Shaheen is our last featured supercomputer. An IBM platform, this supercomputer contains 65,636 cores and was tested at 191.40 teraflops. It is housed at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and is the Middle East's most powerful computer. Shaheen is the Arabic name for the peregrine falcon, which is one of the fastest creatures on the planet.
Photo of generic IBM Blue Gene/P cabinet courtesy IBM.


For more information on the Top 500 list, visit http://www.top500.org. Also, see Zack Whittaker's blog post at ZDNet: US still the supercomputing superpower; Academia has major stake.

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