IDC Reports Latest Supercomputer Ranking
Wednesday September 10 2003 @ 12:19PM EDT

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- IDC today reported the newest performance ratings of supercomputing and high-performance computing systems based on its enhanced metrics for the IDC Balanced Rating. IDC also predicted that the global high-performance computing market would average 6.1 percent annual growth to reach $6.3 billion in 2007.

Supercomputers, or High-Performance Computers (HPC), are systems designed or configured to support scientific research, engineering design, and other computationally intense applications.

In the rankings of 1,599 high-performance computers, Japan's 'Earth Simulator,' incorporating technology from NEC Corp., retained its lead as the top-ranked system based on the new rankings, which combine processor performance, memory performance, and system scalability measures. Multiple vendors exhibited performance leadership in specific segments of the market, according to Earl Joseph II, IDC Research Vice President, Worldwide Systems and Servers.

· In the Capability class of HPC systems, computers used to tackle the most demanding individual problems (the traditional "supercomputer" segment of the market), IBM had the largest representation of the leading 200 computers (36 percent of the systems), followed by SGI (19 percent). Cray showed renewed momentum and had the highest-ranked computer in the Single Computer subcategory, while NEC led in the Cluster subcategory. Relative newcomer Linux Networx showed impressive momentum in the Capability class.

· In the Enterprise class of capacity systems, priced at $1 million or more and used primarily for running many small to medium size jobs, Sun Microsystems led with 59 percent of the 200 highest-ranked systems, followed by Hewlett-Packard with 22 percent. IBM had the best-ranked computer in this segment.

· In the Divisional capacity class of systems selling for $250,000 to $999,999, Hewlett-Packard led with 48 percent of the highest-ranked 200 systems, and SGI was second with 34 percent of the systems. SGI had the highest-ranked computer in this segment.

· Among Departmental capacity class computers selling below $250,000, Hewlett-Packard was the leader with 53 percent of the highest-ranked 200 systems. SGI had the highest-ranked computer in this segment.

"High performance computers are vital for national defense, industrial competitiveness and scientific progress, but in recent years users have pressed for better tests to help guide purchasing decisions," Joseph said. "The IDC Balanced Rating, developed with extensive input from the HPC community, includes multiple standard industry metrics to provide a more balanced view than rankings based on any single number." Among the metrics included are: Linpack (Rmax); SPECfp_Rate (base 2000); SPECint_Rate (base 2000); and STREAM TRIAD. Joseph expects additional tests to be added over time.

"On behalf of IDC, I want to thank the HPC community and the SPEC committee for their excellent ideas for improving our rating methodology," he said. Joseph invited additional suggestions to be forwarded to him at

"User organizations need a source of common system specification data and top-level tools for sorting through various aspects of the technologies to better understand and explain how different computer architectures match their requirements. The IDC Balanced Rating provides one such top-level analysis and ranking based on processor, memory and scaling characteristics," added Christopher Willard, IDC Research Vice President, Worldwide Systems and Servers.

The IDC Balanced Rating focuses on three broad performance areas:

· Processor performance. The desired measurement is the speed at which the processors could generate results if they were kept fully occupied with work. For the IDC Balanced Rating, SPECfp_rate_base2000, SPECint_rate_base2000 and Linpack system Rmax results are used. In the future additional processor metrics will be incorporated.

· Memory system capability. A computer's actual performance is dependent on how much data can be moved into and out of the processors in a given time period. For the IDC Balanced Rating, main memory peak bandwidth and the STREAM TRIAD benchmarks are used.

· Scaling capability. A number of factors relate to how a large system can be configured, and how performance is affected by the design. For the IDC Balanced Rating, total system memory and interconnect bandwidths are used. In the future, latency and other metrics will be integrated into the benchmark based on the availability of consistent data on HPC computers.

"Predicting the performance characteristics of a computer for your specific application codes is a very complex process and buyers often narrow the field of choices by first deciding on the basic computer architecture type, e.g., a single computer vs. a cluster, large nodes vs. small nodes, RISC vs. vectors, etc. Any broad ranking list like this one is often more useful in the acquisition of lower priced computers since you can't afford to spent a million dollars to evaluate buying a $200,000 system," said Willard.

The full list of 1,599 computers is available without charge at: The same website includes a tool that allows site visitors to custom-rank the listed HPC systems according to their own computing priorities.

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