Pennsylvania (AP) -- Big Blue has brought the title of
the world's fastest supercomputer back to the United
States for the first time in three years.
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 two and a half years ago, it was at
least four times speedier than the next-fastest
machine and held on while the entire top 10 was
"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. If the Earth
Simulator were as powerful, it would consume $60
million each year for electricity, Turek said.
The IBM system also will
take up just 2,500 square feet, compared with 34,000
square feet for Earth Simulator.
"This machine is
designed for a very, very small physical footprint and
an energy efficient design," Turek said.
Besides IBM's Blue Gene/L
taking the top spot, another U.S. supercomputer at
NASA's Ames Research Center grabbed No. 2 in the
world, turning 51.87 trillion calculations a second,
Tokyo-based NEC, which
built the Japanese supercomputer, welcomes the
competition from U.S. manufacturers after topping the
list, said Dennis Lam with Houston-based NEC Solutions
America. Earth Simulator is now third.
"If you talk about
building a real-life system, I think NEC has proven
that they can make a system as good as anyone's,"
Lam said. "Definitely, NEC has the technology to
do so again if we choose to."
Though the United States
previously had nine of the 10 fastest computers in the
world, the Japanese supercomputer on the top of the
list has been a sore spot for U.S. officials, federal
research labs and universities.