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  • Topic: Supercomputer, FLOPS, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
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  • Published : December 12, 2010
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A supercomputer is a computer that is at the frontline of current processing capacity, particularly speed of calculation. Supercomputers were introduced in the 1960s and were designed primarily by Seymour Cray at Control Data Corporation (CDC), which led the market into the 1970s until Cray left to form his own company, Cray Research. He then took over the supercomputer market with his new designs, holding the top spot in supercomputing for five years (1985–1990). In the 1980s a large number of smaller competitors entered the market, in parallel to the creation of the minicomputer market a decade earlier, but many of these disappeared in the mid-1990s "supercomputer market crash". Today, supercomputers are typically one-of-a-kind custom designs produced by "traditional" companies such as Cray, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, who had purchased many of the 1980s companies to gain their experience. As of May 2010[update], the Cray Jaguar is the fastest supercomputer in the world. The term supercomputer itself is rather fluid, and today's supercomputer tends to become tomorrow's ordinary computer. CDC's early machines were simply very fast scalar processors, some ten times the speed of the fastest machines offered by other companies. In the 1970s most supercomputers were dedicated to running a vector processor, and many of the newer players developed their own such processors at a lower price to enter the market. The early and mid-1980s saw machines with a modest number of vector processors working in parallel to become the standard. Typical numbers of processors were in the range of four to sixteen. In the later 1980s and 1990s, attention turned from vector processors to massive parallel processing systems with thousands of "ordinary" CPUs, some being off the shelf units and others being custom designs. Today, parallel designs are based on "off the shelf" server-class microprocessors, such as the PowerPC, Opteron, or Xeon, and coprocessors like NVIDIA Tesla GPGPUs, AMD GPUs, IBM Cell, FPGAs. Most modern supercomputers are now highly-tuned computer clusters using commodity processors combined with custom interconnects. Supercomputers are used for highly calculation-intensive tasks such as problems involving quantum physics, weather forecasting, climate research, molecular modeling (computing the structures and properties of chemical compounds, biological macromolecules, polymers, and crystals), physical simulations (such as simulation of airplanes in wind tunnels, simulation of the detonation of nuclear weapons, and research into nuclear fusion). A particular class of problems, known as Grand Challenge problems, are problems whose full solution requires semi-infinite computing resources.


According to the June 2010 TOP500 (link resides outside of List of Supercomputers, IBM continues to lead the list for the twenty-second consecutive time with the most installed aggregate performance. IBM has regained the lead with the most entries on the list with 196.  IBM also leads the Top 10 for the twelfth consecutive time with a total of four of the systems including, the #3 system, the first system to sustain a petaflop of performance, which IBM built for the "Roadrunner" project at the Los Alamos National Lab. Other systems in Top 10 were the #5 IBM Blue Gene/P system at Forschungszentrum Juelich, with over 825 teraflops which is the most powerful supercomputer in Europe. The IBM Blue Gene/L at the US Department of Energy Lawrence Livermore National Lab, long time previous leader, is now the #8 system, and the #9 IBM Blue Gene/P at Argonne National Lab. IBM Offers:

Unmatched expertise to help you solve your toughest problems due to our technology leadership in clustering, chip technology, Linux and support for a broad range of applications for your solution area.

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