Understanding application performance via micro-benchmarks on three large supercomputers: Intrepid, Ranger and Jaguar

Abhinav Bhatelé, Lukasz Wesolowski, Eric Bohm, Edgar Solomonik, Laxmikant V. Kalé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The emergence of new parallel architectures presents new challenges for application developers. Supercomputers vary in processor speed, network topology, interconnect communication characteristics and memory subsystems. This paper presents a performance comparison of three of the fastest machines in the world: IBM's Blue Gene/P installation at ANL (Intrepid), the SUN-Infiniband cluster at TACC (Ranger) and Cray's XT4 installation at ORNL (Jaguar). Comparisons are based on three applications selected by NSF for the Track 1 proposal to benchmark the Blue Waters system: NAMD, MILC and a turbulence code, DNS. We present a comprehensive overview of the architectural details of each of these machines and a comparison of their basic performance parameters. Application performance is presented for multiple problem sizes and the relative performance on the selected machines is explained through micro-benchmarking results. We hope that insights from this work will be useful to managers making buying decisions for supercomputers and application users trying to decide on a machine to run on. Based on the performance analysis techniques used in the paper, we also suggest a step-by-step procedure for estimating the suitability of a given architecture for a highly parallel application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-427
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of High Performance Computing Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • architecture
  • micro-benchmarking
  • performance analysis
  • scientific applications
  • supercomputers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Hardware and Architecture


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