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Winners and losers in the Top500 supercomputer ranking

Nov 20, 20234 mins
CPUs and ProcessorsData Center

Besides Nvidia, who had a great showing on the list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers? Almost everyone.

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For 30 years, the Top500 list of supercomputers has been published twice per year to coincide with the biannual supercomputing tradeshow. Times have changed enormously since the first list in June 1993. Thinking Machines, made famous in the movie "Jurassic Park," dominated that list. However, glory was fleeting, Thinking Machines broke up, and it was sold in pieces to Sun Microsystems and Oracle in the '90s.

Now, the list once read by HPC insiders has gone mainstream and is a source of bragging rights for the vendors that make a good showing. We've already given you the top 10 list, but here's a different look at the ranking and how certain systems and vendors fared.

Winning: x86

The venerable x86 architecture rules the supercomputing roost, with 479 of the 500 machines on the Top500 powered by Intel or AMD.

Losing power: IBM Power

There was a time when IBM's Power processors dominated the list and were in the top spot. Ten years ago, there were 41 machines running IBM Power. Now there are just seven, although two made it into the top 10: Sierra (#7) and Summit (#10).

Holding on: Fujitsu

Fujitsu developed the A64FX processor, based on the Arm microarchitecture, and for a while held the top spot on the lists thanks to the power and efficiency of the A64FX. It has eight systems on the most recent list, which is more than IBM. But this victory is fleeting. Nvidia is preparing to launch the Grace Hopper superchip for supercomputing and has promised more than 40 systems will be coming online in the future.

Winning: Intel

Intel has been knocked on its heels by AMD, but it's still a formidable presence. It's powering 338 systems on the list, with 130 of them from the Cascade Lake era and 19 of them from the brand-new Sapphire Rapids generation.

Gaining: AMD CPUs

Here is yet another example of AMD's incredible turnaround. Six years ago, it had five systems on the list. There were more systems running Sun SPARC and IBM Power than AMD Opteron. Today it's a whole different story, with 140 machines running AMD Epyc processors.

Dominating: Nvidia

You knew this was coming. Nvidia GPU coprocessors are in 303 of the 500. Can anybody stop Nvidia?

Losing: AMD and Intel GPUs

They are being utterly trampled by Nvidia in the GPU accelerator race. AMD has just 11 with its Instinct line, and Intel has just two with its GPU Max cards deployed.

Dominating: Linux

If you think the CPU race is one-sided, you should see the operating systems. Linux powers all but one of the supercomputer on the list. There are many permutations and it is highly fragmented, but Linux owns this list completely.

Missing out: Microsoft

Despite having a high-powered server operating system and clustering technology, Windows is nowhere to be seen on this list except for the number three system, Azure Eagle.

Winning: Lenovo and HPE systems

China is the second-largest supercomputer market, and nearly all of the supercomputers in China are Lenovo-built. This helps bring Lenovo's total count to 169 of 500. HPE is second with 103.

Playing catch-up: Dell

Dell is running a very, very distant third to Lenovo (169) and HPE (103), with only 32 systems on the list. It was even bested by Chinese vendor Inspur (34) and Eviden (48), the HPC subsidiary of France's Atos Group.

Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in southern California who has covered the computer industry for 20 years and has built every x86 PC he’s ever owned, laptops not included.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, Network World, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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