The TOP500 list provides international rankings of general-purpose HPC systems that are in common use for high-end applications. Twice a year, in June and November, a new list featuring the sites operating the 500 most powerful computer systems is assembled and released. The project was started in 1993 to provide a reliable basis for tracking and detecting trends in high-performance computing.
For the fifth consecutive time, Tianhe-2, a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, has retained its position as the world’s No. 1 system, according to the June 2015 edition. Tianhe-2, which means Milky Way-2, led the 45th list with a performance of 33.86 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second) on the Linpack benchmark.
Below is a quick review of the systems that have made it to the top of the TOP500 lists over the past 20 years. For more detailed information, visit http://www.top500.org.
Tianhe-2 (MilkyWay-2): National University of Defense Technology
No.1 from June 2013 until Nov 2014
With 16,000 computer nodes, each comprising two Intel Ivy Bridge Xeon processors and three Xeon Phi chips, Tianhe-2 represents the world’s largest installation of Ivy Bridge and Xeon Phi chips, counting a total of 3,120,000 cores. Each of the 16,000 nodes possess 88 gigabytes of memory (64 used by the Ivy Bridge processors, and 8 gigabytes for each of the Xeon Phi processors). The total CPU plus coprocessor memory is 1,375 TiB (approximately 1.34 PiB).
Titan: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
No.1 in November 2012
When the 40th edition of the list was released at the start of SC12, the No. 1 position was claimed by Titan, a 552,960 processor system with a Linpack performance of 17.6 petaflop/s. Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Titan is a Cray XK7 system that relies on a combination of GPUs and traditional CPUs to make it the world’s most powerful supercomputer. Each of Titan’s 18,688 nodes contains an NVIDIA Tesla K20 GPU along with a 16-core AMD Opteron 6274 CPU processor, giving the system a peak performance of more than 27 petaflops. Titan also has more than 700 terabytes of memory.
Sequoia: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
No.1 in June 2012
For the first time since November 2009, a United States supercomputer sat atop the TOP500 list in June 2012. Named Sequoia, the IBM BlueGene/Q system installed at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved 16.32 petaflop/s performance running the Linpack benchmark using 1,572,864 cores. Sequoia was the first system to be built using more than one million cores.
K Computer: RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science
No.1 from June 2011 until November 2011
In June 2011, a Japanese supercomputer capable of performing 8.16 quadrillion calculations per second (petaflop/s) became the new number one system, putting Japan back in the top spot for the first time since the Earth Simulator was dethroned in November 2004. The system, called the K computer, is at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe. The K computer is named for the Japanese word “kei,” which stands for 10 quadrillion.
Tianhe-1A: National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin
No.1 in November 2010
The 36th edition of the TOP500 list confirmed the rumored takeover of the top spot by the Chinese Tianhe-1A system at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin, achieving a performance level of 2.57 petaflop/s. The event marked the first time a Chinese system topped the list. Tianhe-1 is a hybrid design with 14,336 Intel Xeon processors and 7,168 NVIDIA Tesla GPUs used as accelerators. Each node consists of two GPUs attached to two Xeon processors.
Jaguar: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
No.1 from November 2009 until June 2010
In its third run to knock the IBM supercomputer nicknamed “Roadrunner” off the top perch on the TOP500 list of supercomputers, the Cray XT5 supercomputer known as Jaguar finally claimed the top spot on the 34th edition of the list in November 2009. Jaguar was located at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility. Jaguar posted a Linpack performance of 1.759 petaflop/s and became only the second computer to break the petaflops barrier.
Roadrunner: Los Alamos National Laboratory
No.1 from June 2008 until June 2009
In June 2008, the new No. 1 system was an IBM system installed the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory and called “Roadrunner.” The machined achieved performance of 1.026 petaflop/s — becoming the first supercomputer ever to reach this milestone. At the same time, Roadrunner was also one of the most energy-efficient systems on the TOP500.
BlueGene/L: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
No.1 from November 2004 until November 2007
In November 2004, the DOE/IBM BlueGene/L beta system was able to claim the No. 1 position with its record Linpack benchmark performance of 70.72 teraflop/s. This system was assembled and tested at the IBM Rochester site. Once completed, the machine was moved to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA. In what became a familiar pattern, BlueGene/L was upgraded three times, keeping it atop seven consecutive lists.
The Earth Simulator: Earth Simulator Center
No.1 from June 2002 until June 2004
The Earth Simulator supercomputer at the Earth Simulator Center in Yokohama, Japan, took the No. 1 spot in June 2002 with a performance of 35.86 Tflop/s (trillions of calculations per second) running the Linpack benchmark — almost five times higher than the performance of the IBM ASCI White system that had stood at the top of the previous three lists. This powerful leapfrogging to the top by a system so much faster than the previous top system is unparalleled in the history of the TOP500. The performance gap also kept the Earth System at No. 1 for five consecutive lists.
ASCI White: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
No.1 from November 2000 until November 2001
The IBM ASCI White system located at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory took the No. 1 position in November 2000 with 4.9 teraflop/s Linpack performance. This system was built with 512 nodes, each of which contained 16 IBM Power3 processors using a shared memory. This type of hierarchical architecture was becoming more and more common for systems used in HPC. By June 2001, Linpack performance on ASCI White had improved to 7.2 teraflop/s, keeping it in the No. 1 position for two more lists.
ASCI Red: Sandia National Laboratory
No.1 from Jun 1997 until Jun 2000
Intel’s ASCI Red supercomputer was the first teraflop/s computer, taking the No.1 spot on the 9th TOP500 list in June 1997 with a Linpack performance of 1.068 teraflop/s. The system marked the beginning of a new supercomputer era. In the mid-90s when vector computers started to become less important, The U.S. Department of Energy’s ASCI (Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative) program, which focused on defense applications, opened up a completely new source of funds. ASCI Red was the first product of this initiative and laid the foundation for the U.S. dominance in the production and implementation of supercomputers.
CP-PACS: University of Tsukuba
No.1 in November 1996
The eighth TOP500 list was topped by a 2,048 processor CP-PAC built by Hitachi and installed at the Center for Computional Science at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. The system, which was a non-commercial extension of the Hitachi SR2201, achieved 368.20 gigaflops in running the Linpack benchmark. The CP-PACS Project aimed to develop a massively parallel computer designed to achieve high performance for numerical research of the major problems of computational physics.
Hitachi SR2201: University of Tokyo
No.1 in June 1996
The first six lists featured a see-saw battle between the United States and Japan for the No. 1 position. The seventh list, published at the Supercomputer 1996 in Mannheim, saw Japan maintain its hold on the top spot, but with the University of Tokyo displacing the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan. The No. 1 system was a 1,024-processor SR2201 built by Hitachi. It achieved 232.4 gigaflops running the Linpack benchmark.
Intel XP/S 140 Paragon: Sandia National Labs
No.1 in June 1994
In 1993, Sandia National Laboratories installed an Intel XP/S 140 Paragon supercomputer, which claimed the No. 1 position on the June 1994 list. With 3,680 processors, the system ran the Linpack benchmark at 143.40 giGflop/s. It was the first massively parallel processor supercomputer to be indisputably the fastest system in the world. The operating system, OSF-1, supplied by Intel for the Paragon failed to scale well. Sandia engineers ported SUNMOS, their lightweight kernel, to the Paragon. SUNMOS and associated runtime software became the basis of operations on the machine.
Numerical Wind Tunnel: National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan
No.1 in November 1993
When the second list of the TOP500 supercomputers was presented at the 1993 Supercomputing Conference, it featured a new No. 1 system: the Numerical Wind Tunnel at the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan. The Numerical Wind Tunnel was an early implementation of the vector parallel architecture developed in a joint project between the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan and Fujitsu. The first deployment featured 140 vector processors and achieved 124.2 gigaflop/s performance running the Linpack benchmark.
CM-5: Los Alamos National Lab
No.1 in June 1993
When the forerunner of today’s TOP500 List was published for the first time in June 1993, the No. 1 position was occupied by a CM-5 supercomputer made by Thinking Machines Corporation and installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. With 1,024 processors, the CM-5 posted a 59.7 gigaflop/s performance running the Linpack benchmark. Not only did Thinking Machines take top honors, but the company built five of the top 10 systems on the list.