The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

Summary: The latest Top 500 List of Supercomputers is out and, once more, the world's fastest computers are Linux computers.


While Linux still has trouble getting a grip on the desktop, everywhere else Linux rules. No where is that clearer than it is in the fastest of the fast: the supercomputers.

In the latest Top 500 Supercomputer list list, which was released on June 20th, Linux accounts for 91.00 % of the top supercomputers. Linux is followed by Unix with 4.6%; and Windows with 1.2%. When it comes to super-fast computers like supercomputers or IBM Jeopardy winning Watson, Linux rules.

Of the fastest of the fast, the top ten supercomputers all run Linux. The top ten, lead by the K Computer at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe Japan, are all capable of performing more than 8 quadrillion calculations per second (petaflop/s) This ranking is determined by how fast the computers can run Linpack, "a benchmark application developed to solve a dense system of linear equations." The highest ranking pure Windows supercomputer, the Magic Cube at China's Shanghai Supercomputer Center, comes in at 40th.

Gallery: Inside the world's top supercomputer

It's not just supercomputers and expert systems like Watson that run Linux though. The world's stock exchanges are all moving to Linux. They're doing it because in today's stock markets, microseconds can spell the difference between profit and loss. Only Linux is fast and stable enough to keep up the modern markets' high-frequency traders.

When a stock exchange needs to be able to handle over million trades a second, Linux is the one operating system for the job. While some people dislike HFT (high-frequency trading), and others, who hold stocks for years could care less, HFT accounts for a major part of today's stock exchanges' volume. Thus, it should come as no surprise that major exchange after major exchange, like the London Stock Exchange have moved to Linux.

The bottom line: You may never use Linux as your desktop operating system, but if you want to get anything done fast, chances are you'll be calling on Linux systems.

Related Stories:

Japan's 'K Computer' takes supercomputer crown

Gallery: Inside Japan's K Computer - world's top supercomputer

Japan dethrones China for supercomputer crown

I, for one, welcome our Linux Penguin, Jeopardy Overlords

The London Stock Exchange moves to Novell Linux

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Software

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  • Watson?

    You mentioned Watson... is Watson on the list? And if so, what is it's rank?

    I did see five computers from the Watson Research Center, but I couldn't tell if any of them were Watson or not. Number 192 seemed to be the closest from the specs, but I think it is running a different Linux distro than Watson.
    • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

      @Corfy I do not think Watson would be included in HPC listings for the simple reason that it does an entirely different thing than number crunching. No blas, computational fluid code running there. It is an entirely different kind of computing. So these rankings would not really make sense for Watson.
  • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

    It had to be Linux. If vendors use proprietary OS then they have to rely on them for eg Windows. But that's not the case because Linux is open source and free
    • And if I ever need to build a super computer...

      @shellcodes_coder ...that will be a really big concern for me.
      • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

        I am sure you know better than everyone else.
      • Today's laptops and desktops have more power than the supercomputers

        of the past. So, if you're really concerned about "your" supercomputer, then you probably should have Linux installed. Four and six and eight core computers are becoming the norm, so, better be ahead of the curve.
    • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

      if worldwide contributions to knowledge is well managed, we can proceed to the next frontier in a short while. remember the manhattan project? linux is in the same track...
  • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

    I do use Linux, Mac and Windows but Linux is def. the future. It's def. ruling in the server market, supercomputer market but will take much more time to grab more desktop market share.
    • Ruling the server market?

      How so? Their are more Windows servers sold then Linux servers, so how can Linux be ruling the server market?
      Will Pharaoh
      • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

        @Will Pharaoh Because Windows and Linux are distributed in such different manners (Windows is often bundled with the hardware, Linux is often added after bare hardware is purchased) how can we determine what's actually running out there? I think it's very hard to know.
      • Bundled Windows servers?

        @FeralUrchin <br>That goes to show how much you know about this stuff. Unlike for desktop systems, you can actually buy the very same models without Windows or any OS for that matter.<br><br>The vast majority of servers are not run by hobbyists who buy desktop systems and convert them into Servers. They are run by professionals who - when they buy a system with Windows on it - intend to actually run Windows on it.<br><br>Linux rules in numbers of web servers. There are many, many more servers running workloads inside corporations. And the sales numbers reveal that they are running Windows. That is one area where Linux <i>also</i> is being crushed by Windows.
      • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

        @Will Pharaoh <br>This is a "white lie" of course. Most servers are Linux, even though they are not "paid for". Conviniently for you to miss this fact.
        Not to mention the #CPU problem. All of our 16+ CPU servers run Linux. I am not aware of any server with >4 CPUs running Win.
      • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

        Crushed? Really? Looking at sales? Wow, you are a genius!
      • Only the SBS does windows dominate

        Heavy lifting has always been done by Unix, and much of this is transitioning to Linux.

        The IDC stats are slanted towards this market as they show OS revenue shipped with hardware. Only the SME market buys their OS this way.
        Richard Flude
      • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

        @FeralUrchin [i]Windows is often bundled with the hardware[/i]

        You don't buy many servers do you? I have yet to buy one server that came with [b][i]any[/i][/b] OS.
      • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

        @Will Pharaoh

        We buy a server, immediately put VMWare ESX (a proprietary Linux variant, actually) as the host OS and then apply templates of servers. We have templates for Windows Servers and Linux Servers. We do have to pay licensing fees for the Windows server templates but don't pay anything to apply a Linux server template. So of course when we buy a server which hosts 20-30 server templates, only the Windows servers get counted according to sales.
      • Let's be accurate

        @Will Pharaoh - ESX is Not Linux as VMKernel is proprietary. It so happens that the service console for the VMKernel is RHEL5, but only just what is necessary to manage ESX and nothing else.
      • Is not the white lie


        That the majority of servers in use are Linux, becasue they are "purchased with Windows and are reformatted with Linux."?

        Why would anyone planning on purchasing a server pay the additional 800 dollars for the Windows Server license when all manufactures sell them without Windows Server for 800 dollars less?

        And do you believe that all the servers behind Linux web servers are linux based, or are the majority of the servers Windows based, as they function much better with the Windows desktop ecosystem in place behind the sceens??

        As you can see, the 'white lie' to which you speak is that Linux rules in the server market.

        There are sales figures showing how many servers are sold with Windows installed vs operating system free servers.

        And there is nothing that says Windows will not be loaded onto an operating system free server purchased from these companies, as many companies have server licenses already on site.
        Tim Cook
      • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

        @Honeymonster & Badgered

        Indeed, my prior experience purchasing servers is limited to fairly low-end ones (but not desktops), which were offered with Windows flavors. The Dell PowerEdge Tower small business servers seem to provide an example (according to Dell's web site).

        I understand that higher-end servers can bought without any OS, or provisioned with either Windows or Linux flavors. A better way of expressing the difficulty in counting Windows versus Linux servers would be to notice differences by which Windows and Linux server OS software is licensed.

        Linux server OS software is licensed under the GNU Public License (GPL) rather than on a per-server/CPU/seat basis as with Windows. With Linux server software, one optionally pays for support--not for the right to use, install on additional computers, copy or redistribute the software. The Red Hat EULA can be viewed at

        So, while the Windows server population can be tracked by reported Windows licenses, there is no corresponding way to track the actual number of servers running RHEL, for example, by counting up Red Hat server software "subscriptions" (i.e. support agreements).

        The matter is further complicated by the ability to run non-server-specific and freely downloadable versions of Linux on servers. Common Linux distros support multiple CPUS and large memory spaces by default and so are often suitable for server applications. Also, the kernel can readily be recompiled to support up to 256 CPUs, 256 GB of RAM and 16 TB file systems--with each kernel supporting multiple file systems.

        So I think my point stands: counting the number of servers running Windows is possible; however, counting the number of servers running Linux is much less so--all assuming we know in the first place what a "server" is.

        I'm unconcerned with which OS dominates what and where. But I'd like to see some mention of solid methodology and data along with the various claims made on the subject here and elsewhere.

        BTW, I haven't flagged anyone's post.
      • RE: The Best & Fastest Computers are Linux Computers

        @Mister Spock
        "That the majority of servers in use are Linux, becasue they are "purchased with Windows and are reformatted with Linux."?"
        Now please find a time and place when I said that. In Linux world you can pay for a Redhat support/license or go with totally free and unaccounted CentOS for example. That is where the real Linux marketshare is.Steve Balmer's (hope you know who that is) own admission is that 60% of the web is powered by Linux. Gartner and IDC count sales, not units in operations.
        There are so many inaccuracies in your post I do not know where to start. First a server license is rarely $800. It depends on CPUs, discounts (or lack of), etc.
        And certainly not CPUs. In my tiny department we have 4 Linux servers. This is 128 CPUs.