Breaking: Detailed Results from Today’s Top 500 Fastest Supercomputers List

By Nicole Hemsoth

June 23, 2014

Greetings from Germany and the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC14) where, as happens each year, the bi-annual list of the top 500 fastest supercomputers is unveiled.

Usually, this happens with a great deal of fanfare and speculation over which machine will take the top position. However, this year, there is little surprise in the finding that the Chinese Tianhe-2 system, which blew all others out of the water when it was announced last year, held firmly onto its number one position. While you can view the specs of each of the machines in more detail at the TOP500 site, we wanted to use this time to gauge some of the overarching trends we’ve been observing in terms of performance curves over time, accelerator adoption, architecture choices and more. In short, after you browse this very familiar top ten, take a look at what’s really happening…

Top500_Top10

To review, the Tianhe-2 system, which stands at 33.86 petaflops (compared to the number two system at Oak Ridge National Lab, the Cray “Titan” machine, which offers 17.59 petaflops/s) has 16,000 nodes, each of which are outfitted with two Ivy Bridge and three Xeon Phis for a total of over 3 million cores is going to be a tough one to beat. As we noted earlier this year, China has plans to continue the build-out of this system in hopes of reaching exascale potential. The system is unique with a number of homegrown parts, including the TH Express-2 interconnect, OS, tooling and front-end processors. While it may be a powerhouse, the energy efficiency lags behind the “smaller” Titan machine. Tianhe-2 runs Linpack at 17.8 megawatts while the 261,632 core NVIDIA K20-boosted Cray system at Oak Ridge runs at 8.21 megawatts.

The IBM Sequoia system at Lawrence Livermore is holding steady at number three, which in its three years alive has topped out at 17.17 petaflops/s, not far behind Titan. For those not familiar with the list this further shows the Linpack benchmark performance chasm between the number one system and those that trail it—all of which in the top ten range between 17.59 petaflops/s at the top to 3.1 petaflops/s for #10. The 500th machine on the list runs at just a tick over the 133 teraflop/s peak mark.

For those familiar with the list in its last form in November, you’ll notice that there is only one change in the top ten—a Cray XC30 is now in place and running at 3.14 petaflops at an undisclosed U.S. government site. While other than this new, mysterious addition, there might not be any earth-shattering news on this Top 500 list, there are some trends that we’ve been monitoring over the last few list iterations—and some that have evolved since November. For instance, the United States, which once dominanted the Top 500, dropped from 265 systems during November’s listing to 233 on this 43rd Top 500.

Meanwhile, the number of Chinese systems in increasing. In addition to securing the number one spot by a significant margin, there are an additional 13 machines from China, bringing their total share of the Top 500 to 76. To put that in some perspective, the UK has 30, France has 27 and Germany has 23. Japan has contributed an additional two machines, bringing their total to 30.

When it comes to the overall list, performance is continuing to climb. The total of all machines on the November list is now 274 petaflops, compared to 250. To add further perspective, the total petaflop count across all machines reporting results was 223 petaflops. That sounds like a rather noteworthy increase until one takes a look at the long term growth line in performance…

Remember that strong performance development staircase we’ve steadily been climbing? If you take a look at the graphic below using the latest data from today’s Top 500 announcement, you’ll see that slight planing off in reach that we began to spot over the last year and a half. As our friends at TOP500 noted today, “From 1994 to 2008 [performance] grew by 90% per year. Since 2008 it only grows by 55% per year.” And when you take a close look at the list over the last couple of years, you’ll see that the reason why that declining figure isn’t more pronounced is simply because the top tier of the list is propping it up—most notably with the addition of the Tianhe-2 system, which holds 13.7% of the performance share of the entire list.

When examined as a whole, we’re falling off except at the highest end…but what does this mean for end user applications? Is high end computing getting smarter in terms of efficiency and software to where, for real-world applications, FLOPS no longer matter so much? Many argue that’s the case…and some will await the new HPCG benchmark and forgo Linpack altogether in favor of a more practical benchmark. That hasn’t had an impact yet on this summer’s list but over time it will be interesting to watch.

top500-performance

One gamechanger for the historical performance trends is certainly the mighty accelerator/coprocessor. But even the accelerator story has some interesting twists and turns to report. A total of 62 systems are using some form of accelerator or coprocessor technology, which is up slightly from 53 machines on the November list. Of those, 44 are using NVIDIA GPUs, 17 have deployed Xeon Phi and two have ATI Radeon as the booster of choice.

With that in mind, there’s another phenomenon that stands out. While this isn’t a suggestion that the performance leveling off is because of this, the trend around accelerator use isn’t quite as strong as it used to be either, as you can see on the historical development chart below. There are many reasons why this might be the case. For instance, national labs and scientific computing centers tend to be among the first to experiment with new technologies, although for GPUs in particular, this doesn’t completely match up since the real spike in NVIDIA-powered systems happens late in 2011–quite a long time after GPU computing began to take off. It’s possible to see in that spike for Intel when Xeon Phi landed in several shops as experimental technology as well, but even with a spike visible now, it’s difficult to see widespread adoption.

 

top500-acceleratorOf course, keep in mind that a tapering off of GPU or other accelerated systems doesn’t exactly mean that there is an overall slowdown. This is one segment of the HPC arena–there are many, many machines from academia and enterprise, that do not choose to run the HPL benchmark. Even if there are 20% of these machines missing from the list, the effect on that list would be felt in such a graphic. We asked Addison Snell of Intersect360 Research about the accelerator graphic above and he echoed this, noting that “Change in share in the Top 500 doesn’t necessarily reflect market trends. While Intel did gain share in microprocessors in 2013 over AMD and IBM Power, we also have seen a number of HPC systems with GPUs installed, which has risen to 44% of systems installed since the beginning of 2012.”

The real story that’s developing further with this list–and we expect, given changes at IBM in particular–is on the chip front. A great deal more will be revealed about the nature of such shifts in November and next June…and definitely by the end of 2015 if the many developments at IBM, Intel, NVIDIA and elsewhere are on schedule.

To put those in more accurate light, Intel has an 85% share of the systems on the list with IBM Power at 8 percent and AMD Opterons moving down three percent in terms of share to 6%. TOP500 reports that among these systems, 96% are sporting six or more cores with 83% harnessing eight or more.  To say that Intel continues to dominate is an understatement. But despite any perceived stagnation of this chart from the last couple of years, get ready, because the new few years are set to bring strong winds of change due to momentum with OpenPower and perhaps even AMD. The arrival of 64-bit ARM will shake things up as will new choices in chips, but expect a flat list at least through this time next year unless something completely unexpected happens. Fill in the blank on what that might be, but free, easy to program quantum computing systems seems the only option.

top500-chip

Right now, IBM’s Blue Gene/Q holds the majority of systems in the top ten. However, with changes at IBM, which is now focusing its efforts on the future of OpenPower and Power more generally, once these systems are decommissioned, along with the many others on the list (176 currently), it’s hard to say what their position will be. We talked with IBM’s Dave Turek this week in advance of ISC and we have an interview coming during our special coverage that will offer a sense of what’s next for Big Blue in HPC, so keep an eye out for that.

On the network front, there haven’t been any major changes. 222 systems are sporting Infiniband on this most recent list, up from 207 in fall. 75 entries are reporting 10 GbE, which is two less than the last list A total of 127 systems are outfitted with standard GbE (compared to 135 in November). There are 52 custom interconnects and 5 proprietary interconnects (which now includes the Cray Aries assets, which used to be counted under their own system name). The Gemini interconnect can be found on 18 systems, including, of course, Titan.

For some additional background on this summer’s list, we thought it might be useful to show two figures that demonstrate where a few trends in the list and its participants. The first will also not offer much in the way of difference or surprises compared to November’s iteration of the Top 500, although it’s thrilling to see growing industry participation take a slight rise.

top500-typeThe figure below puts all of this in context by showing the dominant trend in terms of systems–again, not a surprise, but a useful visualization.

top500-architectures

Of all of these systems, HP has a 36% share (down from 39% in November), IBM has 35% (up from 33% on the fall list) and Cray sits in third position for vendor share with 51 systems—a total of just a tick over 10% of the 500 machines.

What’s more enlightening on those figures is the performance share. As noted above, the Tianhe-2 system itself provides over 13% of the performance share for the list. But by vendor, IBM has a 32% performance share, Cray edged up to 18.6% (up by two percentage points, in part due to the new #10 government XC30), and although they sell more systems than the others, HP’s performance share is just a tick below Cray’s at 15.6%.

Stay tuned for our visual feature set go live later this morning CET that showcases other subtle trends on this summer’s TOP500 list.

And in the meantime, stop by the HPCwire booth to say hello. You’re welcome to bring a pot of coffee with you. I take it with milk, no sugar. And I will drink it all. Thank you.

 

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Study Identifies Best Practices for Public-Private HPC Engagement

August 22, 2017

What's the best way for HPC centers in the public sphere to engage with private industry partners to boost the competitiveness of the companies and the larger communities? That question is at the heart of a new study pub Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Launches Site to Share its NYC-based Algorithm Research

August 22, 2017

Much of Google’s algorithm development occurs in groups scattered throughout New York City. Yesterday, Google launched a single website - NYC Algorithms and Optimization Team page - to provide a deeper view into all of Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Strikes Reseller Deal with Atos; Supplants SGI

August 22, 2017

Dell EMC and Atos announced a reseller deal today in which Dell will offer Atos’ high-end 8- and 16-socket Bullion servers. Some move from Dell had been expected following Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s purchase of SGI Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Leveraging Deep Learning for Fraud Detection

Advancements in computing technologies and the expanding use of e-commerce platforms have dramatically increased the risk of fraud for financial services companies and their customers. Read more…

Glimpses of Today’s Total Solar Eclipse

August 21, 2017

Here are a few arresting images posted by NASA of today’s total solar eclipse. Such astronomical events have always captured our imagination and it’s not hard to understand why such occurrences were often greeted wit Read more…

By John Russell

Study Identifies Best Practices for Public-Private HPC Engagement

August 22, 2017

What's the best way for HPC centers in the public sphere to engage with private industry partners to boost the competitiveness of the companies and the larger c Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tech Giants Outline Battle Plans for Future HPC Market

August 21, 2017

Four companies engaged in a cage fight for leadership in the emerging HPC market of the 2020s are, despite deep differences in some areas, in violent agreement Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft Bolsters Azure With Cloud HPC Deal

August 15, 2017

Microsoft has acquired cloud computing software vendor Cycle Computing in a move designed to bring orchestration tools along with high-end computing access capabilities to the cloud. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Ships Supercomputer to Space Station, Final Destination Mars

August 14, 2017

With a manned mission to Mars on the horizon, the demand for space-based supercomputing is at hand. Today HPE and NASA sent the first off-the-shelf HPC system i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD EPYC Video Takes Aim at Intel’s Broadwell

August 14, 2017

Let the benchmarking begin. Last week, AMD posted a YouTube video in which one of its EPYC-based systems outperformed a ‘comparable’ Intel Broadwell-based s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Thrives in Cancer Moonshot

August 8, 2017

The U.S. War on Cancer, certainly a worthy cause, is a collection of programs stretching back more than 40 years and abiding under many banners. The latest is t Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Raises the Bar for Distributed Deep Learning

August 8, 2017

IBM is announcing today an enhancement to its PowerAI software platform aimed at facilitating the practical scaling of AI models on today’s fastest GPUs. Scal Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Storage Breakthrough Paves Way for 330TB Tape Cartridges

August 3, 2017

IBM announced yesterday a new record for magnetic tape storage that it says will keep tape storage density on a Moore's law-like path far into the next decade. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This