IBM Builds the World’s Most Energy Efficient Supercomputers

IBM Green500 list

Supercomputers are, as the name suggests, powerful devices. But the lightning-fast computers, which are used for everything from pharmaceutical research to climate prediction, can also be energy hogs. That’s where the Green500 List comes in. The list evaluates the 500 fastest supercomputers on the planet and ranks them in the order of energy efficiency. As of this month, IBM can claim 15 of the top 25 most energy efficient supercomputers on the list.

The top computer on the Green500 is a prototype of IBM’s next-generation Blue Gene computer, which is 77% more energy-efficient than the second most efficient model, the Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Tsubame 2.0. IBM’s Blue Gene is set to be deployed in 2012 by Lawrence Livermore and Argonne National Laboratories as part of an effort to study particle physics.

Blue Gene may be efficient, but it’s not the fastest supercomputer available. The Chinese Tianhe-1A system at the National Supercomputer
Center in Tianjin–the fastest supercomputer in the world–has a peak performance of 2.57 petaflops. That’s much faster than Blue Gene’s 653 teraflops.

But remember: Energy efficiency wasn’t always a top concern in the world of supercomputers. Now that it is, more and more manufacturers will take it into account–and before long, the fastest supercomputers may also be the most efficient.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.AS