Supercomputers are computers that offer more processing capacity as compared to current processing capacity, particularly in calculation speeds. They are used in various fields be it research, aerospace or accurate weather forecasts. As of now, more than 90% of supercomputers run a Linux-based operating system.

We have here a “top 10 list” of the fastest Linux-based supercomputers in the world.

Note: The rankings and data in this article are latest as of June 2011. Please note that these rankings and performance ratings are carried out regularly and are bound to change over time.

10. IBM Roadrunner
The world's tenth fastest supercomputer, IBM Roadrunner was built by IBM at the Los Almos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA. It costs around 125 million USD and is the fourth most energy efficient supercomputer in the world. A computer's performance is generally measured in FLOPS, which stands for floating point operations per second. IBM's Roadrunner has a speed of about 1 petaflops(1015) with a top speed of 1.456 petaflops which it reached in November 2008. It uses Red Hat Enterprise Linux along with Fedora as its operating system and occupies almost 6000 sq. ft. of real estate. Roadrunner's main use is to predict whether USA's aging arsenal of nuclear weapons is safe and reliable. It is also used in other fields like financial, aerospace and automotive industries.
The unique thing about Roadrunner is its use of two different processing architectures at the same time, more commonly known as hybrid design. This consists of AMD's Opteron along with IBM's own Powercell 8i. In case your dual core computer's speed was never good enough for you, the IBM Roadrunner boasts of a whopping 122,400 cores.



9. Tera 100
Built by the French company Bull SA, Tera 100 is Europe's fastest supercomputer. It runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and gives an average of 1 petaflops, peaking at 1.25 petaFlops. It is one of the most efficient supercomputers in the world running at an efficiency of 83.7 %. Going back to the specs, Tera 100 comes with 20 Petabytes of storage, 300 TB of memory and the processing power of 140,000 Intel Xeon processor cores. This supercomputer includes specially designed water-cooled doors, which cut electrical consumption to half when compared with traditional air-cooled ones.



8. Cray XE6
Housed in DOE's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), California, Cray XE6 is currently the world's 8th fastest supercomputer. It has achieved a peak performance of 1.5 petaflops and runs on Cray Linux Environment version 3. Specs include, 1536 cores per cabinet with 8 or 12-core 64-bit AMD Opteron 6100 Series processors. XE6 also comes with a Hardware Supervisory System (HSS) that integrates hardware and software components to provide system monitoring, fault identification and recovery.



7. Pleiades SGI Altix
Pleiades is a supercomputer used by NASA to conduct modeling and simulation for their missions. Its performance averages around 1.09 petaflops with a peak of 1.315 petaflops. Loaded with a memory of 185 TB and 111,104 cores, Pleiades is the world's 7th fastest supercomputer. The beast runs on SUSE Linux and has about 6.9 PB of storage space with 12 Direct Data Network (DDN) RAIDs.



6. Cielo Cray XE6
This mean machine that was unveiled in May 2010, is the sixth fastest supercomputer in the world. It runs on Linux and is powered by AMD x86-64 Opteron 8 core processor. Cielo is located in Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA and is mainly used for research purposes.



5. TSUBAME 2.0
TSUBAME 2.0 is the successor of TSUBAME 1.0, which previously was the fastest supercomputer in Japan. TSUBAME stands for Tokyo Tech Supercomputer Ubiquitously Accessible Mass storage Environment. Tsubame is also the word for a swallow in Japanese that forms an integral part of their logo. To create TSUBAME 2.0, Tokyo Tech partnered with big corporations like HP, Nvidia, Intel, NEC and others. The Japanese marvel has a theoretical peak performance of a whopping 2.4 petaflops making it the 5th fastest supercomputer in the world. It has an aggregated memory bandwidth of 720 Terabytes per second. This is a huge improvement over TSUBAME 1.0 that offered around 17 TB/s. The storage capacity is of 11 Petabytes, which can be expanded. And yes, it runs on Linux.



4. Nebulae
Nebulae is a research supercomputer located in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. It runs on Linux and has a theoretical peak performance of around 2.9 petaflops. Nebulae is the 4th most powerful supercomputer in the world and the second most powerful in China.



3. Jaguar Cray
Running on Cray Linux Environment, Jaguar is currently the world's third fastest supercomputer. It has achieved a peak performance of about 1.75 petaflops and was once the world's fastest supercomputer before being overtaken by the Chinese Tianhe-1A in 2010-11. The current model, that is Cray CTX5, is an upgraded version of the popular Cray CTX4. Jaguar has around 224, 256 x86-based AMD Opteron processor cores with 16 GB of memory for each node. The file system used here is an external Lustre file system, which is basically a massively parallel-distributed file system that is used for cluster computing. The world Lustre is derived from a combination of the terms Linux and cluster. The file system is capable of storing over 10 Petabytes of data and has a read/write benchmark of 240 GB/s. This mean beast costs a whopping 104 million USD and can be found at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.



2. Tianhe-IA
Tianhe-1A is an upgraded model of Tianhe-1 that was developed by the Chinese National University of Defense in Changsha, Hunan. Tianhe-1 stands for “Milky Way number 1” in Chinese. Both the supercomputers use Linux as their operating system and are undoubtedly the meanest machines China has ever produced. Till June 2011, Tianhe-1A was the world's fastest supercomputer before being overtaken by Japan's K computer. The 88 million dollar beast consists of 112 computer cabinets, 12 storage cabinets, 6 communication cabinets and 8 I/O cabinets. Each cabinet has 4 frames, each frame having eight blades and a 16-port switching board. The system has 3584 such blades containing 7168 GPUs and 14,336 CPUs. Like the Jaguar Cray, Tianhe-1A also uses Lustre file system for its 2 Petabytes storage system. This Chinese marvel has given a peak performance of about 2.5 petaflops and is used in carrying out computations for petroleum exploration and aircraft design. The best part about Tianhe-1A however, is the fact that it is an open access computer. Which means that it will provide services to other countries too. If you're planning to you buy it for Christmas, just remember that simply maintaining this supercomputer costs about 20 million USD a year.



1. K-computer
K-computer is currently the world's fastest supercomputer. It is developed by Fujitsu at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science campus in Kobe, Japan. According to LINPACK benchmarking standards, K-computer managed to give a peak performance of a mind-blowing 8.16 petaflops toppling Tianhe-1A off its number one spot. This beast uses 68,544 2.0 GHZ 8-core SPARC 64 VIIIfx processors packed in 672 cabinets, for a total of 548,352 cores. In layman's term, K-computer's performance is almost equivalent to the performance of 1 million desktop computers. The file system used here is an optimized parallel file system based on Lustre, called Fujitsu Exabyte File System. Being such a high-performer, this supercomputer consumes about 9.8 MW of power, that's the amount of power that would be enough to light 10,000 houses. When compared with its closest competitor, that is the Tianhe-1A, the K-computer is miles ahead and it is highly unlikely that it would lose its number 1 spot any time soon. But hey, one never knows, the Chinese might eventually surprise us with something even more amazing.



Benchmarking: The benchmarks – that is, the figures which are in petaflops – are carried out using LINPACK. LINPACK is basically a collection of FORTRAN subroutines that analyzes and solves linear equations and linear least-square problems. The computer runs a program that solves a system of linear equations and the floating point rate of execution is measured. It is currently the best way to understand how fast a computer works thus making it a benchmarking standard in the world of supercomputers.

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