Cracks appear in Intel’s grip on supercomputing

New competitors threaten to take Intel’s dominance in the high-performance computing (HPC) world, and we’re not even talking about AMD (yet).

Cracks appear in Intel’s grip on supercomputing
Randy Wong/LLNL

It’s June, so it’s that time again for the twice-yearly Top 500 supercomputer list, where bragging rights are established or, in most cases, reaffirmed. The list constantly shifts as new trends appear, and one of them might be a break in Intel’s dominance.

Supercomputers in the top 10 list include a lot of IBM Power-based systems, and almost all run Nvidia GPUs. But there’s more going on than that.

For starters, an ARM supercomputer has shown up, at #156. Astra at Sandia National Laboratories is an HPE system running Cavium (now Marvell) ThunderX2 processors. It debuted on the list at #204 last November, but thanks to upgrades, it has moved up the list. It won’t be the last ARM server to show up, either.

Second is the appearance of four Nvidia DGX servers, with the DGX SuperPOD ranking the highest at #22. DGX systems are basically compact GPU boxes with a Xeon just to boot the thing. The GPUs do all the heavy lifting.

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