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The latest Top 500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers confirmed an Energy Department machine's place at the top.

Released Nov. 8 at the SC2004 Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., the list puts the IBM-built BlueGene/L system as the fastest computer in the world. Energy officials last week announced a peak processing speed of 70.72 teraflops for BlueGene, which is being built for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

NASA's SGI-built Columbia system is ranked at No. 2. Columbia has hit processing speeds of 51.87 teraflops. NEC's Earth Simulator supercomputer came in third, which is used by the Earth Simulator Center in Yokohama, Japan.

The Earth Simulator held the processing speed title for two years until this September, when its mark of 35.86 teraflops was first broken by BlueGene. Columbia topped BlueGene a few weeks later, but the IBM machine regained the title last week. Don't be surprised if the mark continues to fall at a rapid pace for the next few months -- officials for the Energy Department and IBM have said the Livermore supercomputer is still far from its eventual size.

Supercomputer speeds are generally measured using the Linpack Benchmark.

An IBM-built MareNostrum cluster installed at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center took the fourth spot with 20.53 teraflops.

The list also sees the return of the Virginia Tech X-system, often referred to as 'SuperMac' as it is built using Apple's Xserve servers. It disappeared from the listing six months ago as it underwent a major hardware upgrade, and is now listed at No. 7 with its new Linpack performance of 12.25 teraflops.

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