November 9, 2004
PITTSBURGH - Big Blue has brought the title of the world’s fastest supercomputer back to the United States for the first time in three years.
International Business Machine Corp.’s still incomplete Blue Gene/L system was officially named the fastest in the world Monday by the Top500 project, an independent group of university computer scientists who release supercomputer rankings every six months. The system was clocked at 70.72 trillion calculations per second, almost double the performance of the reigning leader — Japan’s Earth Simulator, which can sustain 35.86 trillion calculations a second.
Erich Strohmaier, one of the co-founders of the list, said that when the Earth Simulator appeared 2 1 /2 years ago, it was more than 4 1 /2 times speedier than the next-fastest machine and held on while the entire top 10 was replaced.
‘‘It is going up in steps. The step that the Earth Simulator made was big. The Blue Gene is going to be ahead of the curve for the next couple of years,’’ Strohmaier said. ‘‘Next year with the final Blue Gene, four times what it is this year, it is going to be a real step up and will be hard to beat.’’
Blue Gene/L will be installed next year at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where it will be used to study the nation’s nuclear stockpile and perform other research. Currently, it’s just a quarter of its planned size of 360 trillion calculations a second.
IBM officials downplayed a U.S. manufacturer regaining the top spot.
‘‘IBM has dominated the top of supercomputing for a number of years, having reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the world is not that significant,’’ said Dave Turek, IBM’s vice president of deep computing. Instead, he pointed to its relatively low energy consumption and small size.
Blue Gene/L will consume about $1 million a year in electricity.