HP dominates Top500 computer list

Hewlett-Packard Co. has narrowly maintained its position as the top supplier of systems on a list of the world's 500 most powerful computers, scheduled to be released on Monday.

As the maker of 159 of the 500 computer systems on Monday's Top500 list, HP has just one more listing than its closest competitor, IBM Corp., according to a copy of the list obtained by IDG News Service. IBM does dominate the top part of the list, however, accounting for almost half of the computers in the top 100.

The Top500 list rates the world's fastest computers, based on how well they solve a number of mathematical equations in a test called the Linpack benchmark. The list is compiled twice a year by researchers at the University of Mannheim in Germany, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of Tennessee, and its publication is widely anticipated by users of high-performance computers.

"This is the glamour list of the industry, because it's easy to point to it and make comparisons," said IDC High Performance Computing Program Vice President Earl Joseph, whose company maintains a competing ranking of high performance computers called the IDC Balanced Rating.

The Earth Simulator Center supercomputer at Yokohama Japan remains the most powerful computer in the world, according to the list. It is followed by an HP AlphaServer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and two systems used by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center's Seaborg computer rounds out the list's top 5 machines.

Probably the biggest winner on this latest list is Intel Corp., which jumped from having 54 systems in the November rankings to 119 in June. A 1,500-processor Itanium 2 machine at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory gave Intel's 64-bit processor its first top-ten showing on the list.

Intel processors were "virtually absent from this list only a few years ago," according to the Web site, Top500.org, maintained by the list's creators.

Intel's strong representation reflects the growing number of clustered systems in high-performance computing, said IDC's Joseph. "Clustered systems are becoming very strong in the marketplace overall," he said. Another factor driving Intel up the list is the speed of its 32 bit processors. "Because those processors have gotten fast enough, a lot of people are buying them as opposed to a supercomputer or the traditional SMP (Symmetric Multiprocessing) server like you'd get from Sun or SGI," he said.

The big loser in the latest rankings is Sun Microsystems Inc. In November, Sun had 88 machines on the list, but that number shrunk to just 9 on the latest list, which means that Sun's ranking as a supplier of computers on the list has dropped from third to tenth place.

The Top500 list will be officially released on Monday, on the eve of the ISC2003 supercomputer conference in Heidelberg, Germany.

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