IDC Reports Latest Supercomputer Rankings Based On The IDC Balanced Rating Test

FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Nov. 18, 2002 -- IDC today reported the newest rankings of supercomputer performance based on its comprehensive test, called the IDC Balanced Rating.

The test, developed with extensive input from the high-performance computing (HPC) community, is important because industrial competitiveness and scientific progress depend on this most-powerful class of computers.

The latest rankings list contains 1,030 currently installed HPC computer systems. "Our goal is to document as many of the world's installed HPC systems as possible, and make the data available for free to the entire HPC community," said Earl Joseph II, IDC Research Director, Worldwide Systems and Servers.

"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. We invite suggestions at all times via email to," said Debra Goldfarb, IDC group vice president, Worldwide Systems and Servers.

The computers are ranked in ten different tables based on IDC's four market segments and whether the computer is a cluster of computers or a single (non-clustered) computer. The complete ranking tables are available at

The four IDC market segments are:

1. Technical Capability Computers: Systems purchased to solve the most demanding problems.

2. Technical Enterprise Computers: Capacity systems that sell for $1 million or more.

3. Technical Divisional Computers: Capacity systems sold from $250,000 to $999,000.

4. Technical Departmental Computers: Capacity systems sold for less than $250,000.

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 Rmax results are used in the rating. 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 effected by the design. For the IDC Balanced Rating, total processor count and total system memory bandwidth 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 spend a million dollars to evaluate buying a $200,000 system," said Joseph.

The draft results of the latest IDC Balanced Rating were circulated several times over the last two months within the HPC User Forum, a group of leading worldwide high-performance computing users from government, industry and academia, and among HPC computer vendors.

Interesting Observations From The New Rankings:

-- The Earth Simulator in Japan, built by NEC, is the fastest on the list, with a score of 40,478, 8.1 times faster than the next fastest computer.

-- The second fastest computer is ASCI White built by IBM, with a score of 4,967.

-- IBM has 3 of the top ten Capability computers and has the top 5 clustered Enterprise computers. IBM has the fastest Enterprise computer with a score of 521.

-- HP has computers in the top ten of all four market segments. HP has 3 of the top ten Capability systems and 6 out of the top ten Departmental class systems. HP has 4 of the top ten clustered Capability computers. HP has the second fastest Enterprise computer at 509. HP also has 3 of the top ten single Divisional computers.

-- Linux NetworX is the newest vendor entering the top ten list.

-- SGI is on the top ten list for every category of HPC computer and has 5 out of the top ten single (non-clustered) computers. SGI has the fastest single computer with a score of 772. SGI also has the fastest Departmental computer with a score of 11.9.

-- Sun has 7 out of the top ten Divisional class systems and has 6 out of the top ten Enterprise class systems. Sun has the fastest Divisional computer with a score of 73. Sun has 5 of the top ten clustered Divisional computers.

-- Cray Inc. has 5 out of the top ten single (non-clustered) computers.

-- Looking at only single (non-clustered) computers, SGI and Cray Inc. are the only vendors on the top 25 list. SGI has 14 and Cray Inc. has 11 of the top 25 computers.

-- Looking at the largest market segment, Departmental computers, HP and SGI each have 11 of the top 25 computers.

The full list of 1,030 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.

About IDC

IDC is the world's leading provider of information technology (IT) industry analysis, market data and insight, and strategic and tactical guidance to builders, providers and users of information technology. IDC provides global research with local content through more than 600 analysts in 43 countries worldwide. IDC is a division of IDG, the world's leading IT media, research, and exposition company.


CONTACT: IDC, Framingham
Earl Joseph II, 612/812-5798