Top500 July 2015 list

The trend continues for slowing supercomputer performance. From Top500: “Total combined performance of all 500 systems has grown to 363 Pflop/s, compared to 309 Pflop/s last November and 274 Pflop/s one year ago. This increase in installed performance also exhibits a noticeable slowdown in growth compared to the previous long-term trend.” 54 PFLOPS in 7 months is nothing to sneeze at, of course.

Some ideas about what could be causing this slowdown:

  • Continued effects of the recession. Supercomputers must be planned in advance, which is why we see a lag of several years between the onset of the recession in 2008/09 and the slowdown in growth. As the recession ends, we’d expect growth to return to its long-term path.
  • Switch from desktop computers to smartphones. Supercomputer components have their costs greatly suppressed by being similar to consumer parts, and thus achieving economies of scale. With people buying fewer PCs and instead getting more done with smartphones and tablets, manufacturers may switch production more to non-server parts.  Thus there might be a lag where supercomputer builders need to figure out how to use those lower-power parts effectively.
  • Lower appetite among customers for lots of FLOPS. Could be true, but I wouldn’t offer great odds on it.
Source: Top500

Source: Top500

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