How did Canada do on the Top 500 Supercomputer list?

Canada placed a respectable eight supercomputers in this year’s Top 500 Supercomputers list. The most powerful supercomputer in Canada the SciNet at the University of Toronto, which placed 45th on the list; one of two machines to crack the top 100.

The 37th edition of the closely watched list was released today at the 2011 International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg. The ranking of all systems is based on how fast they run Linpack, a benchmark application developed to solve a dense system of linear equations.

For the first time, all of the top 10 systems achieved petaflop/s performance – and those are also the only petaflop/s systems on the list.

The U.S. is tops in petaflop/s with five systems performing at that level; Japan and China have two each, and France has one. Sadly Canada has none.

A Japanese built computer called “K” came in first place on the Top 500 supercomputer list, ending China’s reign at the top after just six months. At 8.16 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), the K computer is more powerful than the next five systems combined.

The University of Toronto’s SciNet is Canada’s most powerful supercomputer. Built by IBM Research Canada this machine, called the GPC iDataPlex runs the Xeon processors E55xx QC at 2.53 GHz on Linux. At No. 55 is Guillimin at the Clumeq site at McGill University. IBM has five of the eight with HP having two and Sun with one.

The other remaining supercomputers in Canada that made the list are:

The University of Laval’s Colosse, a Sun Blade x6048 system that placed 119th.

The University of Montreal’s RQCHP at No. 137.

An older SciNet at the University of Toronto came in 324th.

The University of B.C.’s Cancer Centre’s Genome was 349th.

An HP Cluster Platform 3000SL system at the University of Waterloo finished in 355th place.

And, the last Canadian based supercomputer to make the Top 500 was in 422th position: another HP Cluster 3000BL system is being used at an unnamed IT service provider.

The TOP500 list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany; Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Canada was only able to beat out one other G8 nation (Italy) in terms of number of supercomputers. The U.S. topped the list with 256 supercomputers. More than half the list was made of a American supercomputers. Next was China at 62, then Germany at 30, the U.K. had 27, Japan has 26, France has 25, and Russia has 12. All other countires were in the single digits.

Canada’s best showing on the Top 500 was way back in 1993 the first year of the list when an NEC Vector system from the Atmospheric Environment Service (AES) ranked 6th.

Last year the SciNet ranked 39th, but the nation only produced six supercomputers that made the list.

The most supercomputer Canada has ever placed on the Top 500 was in 2002 when 13 of our machines were honoured.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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