IBM, HP Heat Up Supercomputer Rivalry

IBM still operates the fastest supercomputer in the industry, but rival Hewlett-Packard has more of them in operation.

IBM still operates the fastest supercomputer in the industry, but rival Hewlett-Packard has more of them in operation, according to a closely watched global survey released in concert with the recent international Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany. HP ranks first for market share on the list of the top 500 supercomputers compiled by university computer researchers in the United States and Germany.

HP grew its market share to 40 percent with 202 systems, while IBM's share fell to 38 percent with 192 systems. In the previous report last November, IBM's share was 47 percent, to HP's 32 percent.

IBM's Blue Gene/L supercomputer, installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, ranked first on the list for speed, with a "sustained performance" of 280.6 trillion operations per second, or teraflops. (Flops means "floating point operations per second.")

But change looms, because IBM’s got more power on the drawing board: IBM announced in June a new supercomputer, Blue Gene/P, which will have three times the processing power of Blue Gene/L. Properly configured, the P may be able to hit 3 petaflops (P flops), or 1,000 trillion calculations per second, IBM says. That means this new monster could perform on the order of 100,000 times better than your home PC, IBM says. Expected customers include the U.S. Department of Energy.

Sun Microsystems, which holds only a 1.4 percent market share, is making a concerted effort to pursue the supercomputer market. Sun is building a supercomputer code-named "Constellation" designed to reach 1 P flops. For this supercomputer being built at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Sun received a $59 million National Science Foundation grant.

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