Big Blue has morphed into Big Green. In the Green 500 list of super-powerful computing machines, IBM has snapped up 57 of the top 100 places.
The Green list is a re-ordering of the famous annual Top 500 list of supercomputers in use around the world, and it places the electrical efficiency of the devices as their most important feature--measured via the watts per megapflop metric. When restructured this way, IBM grabs 18 of the top 19 spots, with its BladeCenter cluster at the University of Warsaw grabbing the crown with 536 MFlops per watt. In terms of other manufacturers, the number-five slot is owned by the Japanese Greatly Reduced Array of Processor Elements with Data Reduction, while the 20th goes to the University of Stuttgart's NEC supercomputer cluster. IBM's Roadrunner installation at Los Alamos, which is actually the most powerful machine in the more familiar supercomputer list, comes in fourth position on the Green 500 list, an impressive feat for such a monster machine.
This is a testament to increasingly sophisticated chip technology. More off-the-shelf components are being incorporated into supercomputer designs versus custom-crafted, energy-hungry designs. Twenty of the top 50 machines use commercial chips. As a result, the average efficiency of the machines in the green list has risen 10% over last year's figure.
The vast majority of these machines are used for scientific or engineering purposes, modeling nuclear explosions or, somewhat ironically, climate change. But not all. Weta Digital's machines, which chattered busily a few years ago to give the world the visual effects in The Lord of The Rings films, rank 140 to 143 on the Top 500 list, but just 393rd on the Green 500 list.