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Top500 list's twice-yearly snapshots of world's fastest supercomputers develop into big picture of changing technology


Now in its 10th year, the twice-yearly TOP500 list of supercomputers serves as a "Who's Who" in the field of High Performance Computing (HPC). The TOP500 list was started in 1993 as a project to compile and publish twice a year a list of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. But it is more than just a ranking system and serves as major source of information to analyze trends in HPC. The list of manufacturers active in this market segment has changed continuously and quite dramatically during the 10 year history of this project. And while the architectures of the systems in the list have also seen a constant change, it turns out that the overall increase in the performance levels recorded is rather smooth and predictable. HPC performance levels grow exponentially. The most important single factor for this growth is - of course the increase of processor performance described by Moore's Law. However, the TOP500 list clearly illustrates that HPC performance has actually outpaced Moore's Law, due to the increasing processor numbers in HPC systems. On the other hand changes in computer architecture make it more and more of a challenge to achieve high performance efficiencies in the Linpack benchmark used to rank the 500 systems. With knowledge and effort, the Linpack benchmark can still be implemented in very efficient ways as recently demonstrated by a new implementation developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center for their 6,656 processor IBM SP system.

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