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The Top 10 Supercomputers, Illustrated

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the sorry-no-centerfold dept.

Supercomputing 68

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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Visual guide? (2, Funny)

sjwt (161428) | more than 2 years ago | (#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!

Re:Visual guide? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115658)

Why was their no mention of IBM's 50-petaflop super their building using the PowerPC A2 {18-cores, 32-threads, 45nm, all under 60-watts}.

Re:Visual guide? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115808)

Because they're building it. They have not built. Until it is actually built, and they have run appropriate benchmarks and submitted them to Top500, there are no benchmarks on which to rank it.

Re:Visual guide? (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116310)

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

Geek Porn at its Finest (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115308)

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

Acceptable Frame Rate (0, Troll)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115324)

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

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

Re:Acceptable Frame Rate (0)

lucidlyTwisted (2371896) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115458)

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

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

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

(Any more for any more?)

Re:Acceptable Frame Rate (2, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115472)

Ok ok something that will run a flash version of Crysis running off of firefox at an acceptable frame rate.

Re:Acceptable Frame Rate (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116034)

On a mac?

Re:Acceptable Frame Rate (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117104)

No you anonymous twat! On the supercomputers this article is about.

Re:Acceptable Frame Rate (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38121032)

Yes, but does it run Linux?

Re:Acceptable Frame Rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38172470)

I think a more appropriate question...... Does it blend?

Re:Acceptable Frame Rate (1)

JamesTRexx (675890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115522)

A last! Something to run yo momma at an acceptable frame rate!

Will that do?

Re:Acceptable Frame Rate (2)

ttong (2459466) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116872)

Something to run slashdots unoptimised JavaScript at an acceptable frame rate!

Nice rack. (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#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. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115414)

No, no. You must be confusing TERA 100 with the latest Pirelli with Kate Moss.
Oh, wait... I forgot this is /.
And, at least TERA is wearing something.

Re:Nice rack. (5, Insightful)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:Nice rack. (3, Informative)

gentryx (759438) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118482)

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.

Re:Nice rack. (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118836)

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.

Re:Nice rack. (2)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116044)

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.

Re:Nice rack. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118294)

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...

Every supercomputer should look nice . . . (3, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Every supercomputer should look nice . . . (5, Funny)

darthdavid (835069) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115480)

The entire building is a plastic white egg, there's a power button, a really big plug, 1 Ethernet jack, 1 usb port and several proprietary ports that no one but Apple uses. The preferred interface is a small touchscreen kiosk carefully hidden with tasteful landscaping.

There are no user-serviceable parts inside, opening the shell voids the warranty. What few upgrade options available when ordering will have exorbitant mark up and it will be slightly slower and a lot more expensive than most of its competitors. If anything breaks the recommended solution is to demolish it on site and order a new one.

Re:Every supercomputer should look nice . . . (4, Informative)

sydsavage (453743) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115778)

Way back in '03, Virginia Tech built a cluster of 1,100 Mac G5's. It came in at #3 on the Top 500 list that year, and at $5.2M, it was a fraction of the cost of the next cheapest supercomputer in the top ten. And it was assembled by students in 3 weeks, using stock G5 towers fitted with InfiniBand cards.

It was later upgraded to G5 xServe boxes, and as of 2008, was still ranked 281 on the Top 500 list [top500.org] .

Here's a short promo film that VT produced: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLujLtgBJC0 [youtube.com]

You've seen Apple's new campus design, have you? (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117812)

The "plastic white egg" is a good first-order approximation of Apple's design for their new campus [techcrunch.com] , which they'll be building at the old HP facility off Tantau Ave. in Cupertino. Well, fried egg, anyway, since there's a hole in the center...

Re:Every supercomputer should look nice . . . (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115494)

Well supercomputers tend to do look nice. If you are going to pay millions of dollars on a computer it better look pretty darn cool to impress the board of directors who approved it.
I use to work with a sales man who worked for Cray. Those old supercomputers with all those blinking lights knobs and buttons were there just to make the computer look impressive. They were not overly functional. Companies who buy these expensive computers would flaunt them and have them quite visible in their organization. Not just stuck in a back room.

Re:Every supercomputer should look nice . . . (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118124)

A picture of the Cray 1, for reference: Computer furniture [wikimedia.org] .

Imagine a beowulf... (4, Funny)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115398)

adventure game utilising the combined resources of these machines.

Re:Imagine a beowulf... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115570)

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

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

Re:Imagine a beowulf... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120406)

I hear one of those is calculating the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Re:Imagine a beowulf... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119426)

An adventure game where you can have meaningful conversations and open interaction with in-game characters. In other words, a game you can get laid in, or play monopoly.

Appearance? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115412)

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!

Re:Appearance? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115506)

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.

Re:Appearance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115586)

...a longer bus connection per node.

All the more reason to put benches around them like Cray did!

Ba-Dum Chicsh!

Phooey! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115470)

Nine tiny pics of facades, plus one artist's impression that's just as small and uninspired.

I mean c'mon, 470 x 272 pixels?

It's like reporting on a car show with a handful of thumbnails of door handles. Show us the racks!

Re:Phooey! (3, Funny)

JamesTRexx (675890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115532)

Show us the racks!

Yes! Show us the racks!

Wait, we were talking about the car show girls, right?

Re:Phooey! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116262)

I don't get it. How do you install cars on racks?

Re:Phooey! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117242)

Racks or GTFO!

You know what would be nice? (4, Funny)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#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] .

Re:You know what would be nice? (3, Insightful)

RicktheBrick (588466) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

What's with the glam? (4, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#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!

Re:What's with the glam? (1)

archen (447353) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115926)

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?

Re:What's with the glam? (1)

cthulhu11 (842924) | more than 2 years ago | (#38121850)

... 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.

Coll but (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115726)

imagine a Beuwolf cluster of these ?

Familiar looking facades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115754)

What's with the beverage vending machine facades? Where's the slot where the Pepsi comes out?

Acceptable $FRAMERATE (cont.) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115782)

Will Corel VideoStudio X4 Ultimate render at an acceptable rate?

Sandia National Labs just bluescreened running "Smash Mars into Earth" and Dr. Jay Melosh was not happy.

How far we've come! (3, Interesting)

martyb (196687) | more than 2 years ago | (#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?

Re:How far we've come! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116820)

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 (4, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118472)

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.

This Is... (1)

mlauzon (818714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38115878)

Kind of cool!

So most of them are in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38115920)

Ok good to know. Buh Bye USA.

Re:So most of them are in China (1)

VillageDolt (1223292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38121608)

Since they seem to make most of our consumer pc hardware, not a big surprise.

huge gap (2)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116276)

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!

Re:huge gap (1)

davewoods (2450314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38125132)

Everything is bigger in Texa-pan?

Re:huge gap (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38126224)

what is 'texa-pan'?

Two points... (0)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116476)

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

Re:Two points... (1)

mkbosmans (1091203) | more than 2 years ago | (#38127684)

2) The real #1 is still the human brain.

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

Top 500 progress (2)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 2 years ago | (#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?

Re:Top 500 progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119916)

Actually, a whole bunch of things have been removed from the Top500 list this year, including some critically important technical data like Nmax and Nhalf.

publically acknolwedged systems (3, Interesting)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117100)

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

Believe it when I see it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38118358)

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 they can get anything that regular people can't also get.

So they're almost certainly dependent on just buying more. In other words, linearly scaling the machines you see here. Maybe theirs have 2x-10x as many cores. Maybe they have five hundred of their own.

If I had to guess, I'd say the NSA's cryptographic prowess comes mostly from algorithms, not hardware. They have the best human codebreakers, doubtless able to shave FLOPs off here and there.

More importantly, though, they have SIGINT. Why decrypt when there's a treasure trove of information available to any law enforcement agency that has taps on any phone, GPS on any vehicle, traffic monitors on any Internet connection they choose, with no pesky subpoena or judicial oversight?

citation needed (4, Interesting)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118700)

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.

Re:citation needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123764)

How many usb hub [hkcolordigital.com] built on that supercomputer?

"illustrated" *yawn* (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118790)

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?

How about real images? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120276)

These look like renderings to me.

Pointless Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120716)

The Fabulouuuuuuus Machines can not even render a 12K JPG image file or a 1K ASCII file (text)!

What does that say about the definition of ... Useless!

++

Useless Organization (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120782)

My pinis has more significance that the sum the ot the top500 "super"computing machines!

NinrNinrNinr.

++

Commodore 64 is a Supe Comupter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38121084)

Where is the Commodore 64 in this list it's a "Super Computer" :)

Shane.

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