Jaguar outruns Roadrunner

The bi-annual Top500 list of the world’s biggest and fastest supercomputers has just been released and shows that Linux-based systems now account for more than 90% of the Top500. Even more interesting is that IBM’s Roadrunner supercomputer, which has dominated the top spot of late, has been dethroned, and substantially so by the Cray XT5 Jaguar.

Linux dominates

It’s no longer surprising that Linux dominates the world of supercomputing. It’s been that way for many years now. But it is interesting to see Linux increase its share of the biggest and best, now accounting for 89.2% – or 446 supercomputers – of the Top500. This is an increase of three new Linux-based supercomputers since the June 2009 Top500 report.

Next in line after Linux are Unix-based systems and mixed systems, accounting for 5% and 4.6% of the Top500 respectively. Five Windows-based supercomputers and a single BSD-based one bring up the rear of the pack.


IBM’s Roadrunner high performance computer (HPC) has dominated the Top500 chart for a couple of years since it became the world’s first HPC to break the petaflop mark in mid-2008. Cray’s Jaguar, however, has been climbing steadily during that time and in the June version of the Top500 report was marginally behind Roadrunner.

In the past six months, however, Jaguar has been given a number of power boosts and has now sailed past Roadrunner, clocking a peak 1.759 petaflops/s. One petaflop/s refers to one quadrillion calculations per second.

Since July Jaguar’s number of computing cores has been increased from 129600 to 224162 and it has been equipped with AMD’s new six-core processor. The six-core processors have only been available since August and have 2GB of memory per core. The whole Jaguar system has 300TB of memory and 10 petabytes of hard disc space.

IBM’s Roadrunner actually turned in a poorer result this time around because of a repartitioning of the system which saw some of its resources dedicated to other tasks during testing. Roadrunner recorded 1.04 petaflops, dropping from 1.105 petaflop/s in June 2009.

The big numbers

The minimum performance required to be included in the November 2009 Top500 list is 20 teraflop/s, a 3 teraflop increase on June 2009’s 17.1 teraflop/s entry level.

The last system on the newest list would have been listed at position 336 in the previous Top500 just six months ago.

Quad-core processor based systems have now taken over the Top500. Already 427 systems are using them, with 59 systems using dual-core processors and only four systems still using single core processors. Six systems use IBM’s advanced Sony PlayStation 3 processor with 9 cores and two systems at Cray are using the new six-core Istanbul AMD Opteron processors.

Intel is still the most dominant player in the HPC sector and 402 of the Top500 systems are using Intel processors. Six months ago 399 systems were using Intel processors. The IBM Power processors are the second most commonly used processor family with 52 systems, down from 55. They are followed by the AMD Opteron family with 42 systems, down from 43.

Hewlett-Packard systems are the most common in the Top500, with 210 listed systems. Just behind them is IBM with 186 systems.

South Africa’s only HPC in the Top500, the Tsessebe, occupies position 311 in the latest Top500 report. Tsessebe is based at the Centre for High Performance Computing in Cape Town. 

Jaguar outruns Roadrunner

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Jaguar outruns Roadrunner