Where Linux rules: Supercomputers

Where Linux rules: Supercomputers

Summary: Linux is everywhere, except on traditional PCs. But when it comes to total platform domination, you can't beat Linux on supercomputers.


The latest Top 500 Supercomputer list is out. At the very tip-top, you'll find Tianhe-2. This supercomputer, developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, is once more the world’s fastest supercomputer with a performance of 33.86 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second) on the Linpack benchmark. Also on top, as it has been for more than a decade now, you'll find Linux.

Top 500 SuperComputers November 2013 by OS
When it comes to supercomputers. Linux rules.

When it comes to supercomputers, Linux is the operating system of choice and it has been since 2004. The latest round-up of the world's fastest computers underlines just how dominant Linux is in supercomputers.

In the November 2013 listing, 482 of the world's top supercomputers run Linux. The free, open-source operating system is followed by Unix, with eleven; four systems running a mix of operating systems, two with Windows and a single system running BSD Unix. That's an advantage of 96.4 percent for Linux to 3.6 percent for everyone else, if you're keeping score at home.

The vast majority of these Linux hot-rod computers use cluster architectures with 86.4 percent. Only 15.4 percent use a massively parallel processor (MPP) design.

A related development, behind the high-tide of Linux, is that most of these supercomputers use AMD and Intel chips. To be exact, 82 percent use Intel Xeon chips with the Xeon E5 SandyBridge processor leading the way. 9 percent use AMD Opteron and 8 percent use IBM Power processors. All of these chips can, and do, run Linux on supercomputers.

Just over 10 percent of supercomputers, 53 systems, use accelerator/co-processor technology. Of these, 38 use NVIDIA chips, 13 systems with Intel's Xeon Phi and two use ATI Radeon.

Looking ahead, the supercomputer testers are well aware that the Linpack benchmark is dated. Jack Dongarra, distinguished professor of computer science at the University of Tennessee, creator of the TOP500 and Linpack's inventor, is working on a new supercomputer benchmark: the High Performance Conjugate Gradient.

We don't have a date yet for when the HPCG will appear. We can, however, be certain that whenever it appears, Linux will still be the top supercomputer operating system.

Topics: Hardware, IBM, Intel, Linux, Processors

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  • I'm waiting on the "Black Friday" shopping list

    of supercomputers! Haven't seen anything from Best Buy, Target, Staples or Amazon in regards to super sale on supercomputers.
    • Take a chance, El Wiz

      Call Cray on Black Friday, talk with a sales rep, see if they'll give you a discount on a supercomputer and give them the financial information needed if the discount is to your liking. Here's the link to their current selection of supercomputers:


      And, please, let us know how it works out for you. :)
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Linux dominates tablets and smartphones...

        Q2-Q3 2013:

        Android Linux: smartphones 81%, tablets 60-65% (including whitebox tablets)

        And i have never believed those 1% pay-per-click statistics of desktops by Net Application and StatsCounter. I real life Linux has some 4-5% marketshare of desktops too. With ChromeBooks gaining popularity that percentage will be near in futere somewhere near 7-10%.

        One thing you should never forget is that over 60% of new devices with internet connection are using Linux. Windows got less than 20%.
        • "New devices with internet connection"?

          I'm just being curious; could you expand on what do you mean by "new" (time margin) and "device witn internet connection"? I suppose tablets and cell phones are included, but are industrial embedded systems included too or just "end-user" devices?
          Federico Churca-Torrusio
        • oh lol...

          4-55 in usa maybe, just move away from usa dominated world and you will find linux being majority os on desktop.
      • El Wiz, one more thing ...

        Check this out! An app store for supercomputers:

        Rabid Howler Monkey
  • I'm waiting on the "Black Friday" shopping list

    Only real losers participate in Black Friday.
  • Ahh yes, Black Friday

    Black Friday in the year of our lord 1348 was the day was the day fryer Benedict Gustav of Austria notices a Witch dressed in black robes casting a spell over the river Rhine. Soon after all those who drank from the tainted waters became ill and spread the black death to all they came in contact with.

    Black Friday....

    Just kidding, that did not really happen but the name invokes such a vision. It really means high sales that keep the stores in the black (ink, as in profit as opposed to red ink for loss).
  • Banging the Same old Drum....

    I am not certain how many times we all need to be told that Linux Rules Supercomputers.

    Change the content of your articles as this one is definitely getting tedious. Sadly you cannot claim the same applies to Linux on the Desktop PC.
    • Sadly

      for you anyway, Windows is only used on 20% of systems in the world. It's a dying OS
      • Re: Sadly....

        For the record I work with neither windows or Linux.

        OS X is the way forward.
        • 5735guy: "OS X is the way forward"

          Not for supercomputers, apparently.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Re: OS X

            Yes but unlike Linux. OS X is very useful on the Desktop.
          • desktop linux exists for, and developed by

            those who need it. People such as myself. If you don't what its useful for - don't use it. Linux does not exist for profit, like windows and OSX. It exists because it is so useful to millions of users and developers. And many can make a living off its existence. Its direction and functionality is not determined by a panicked marketing department (see: windows 8 metro UI). If windows stops turning a profit, guess what - they toss the code in the proverbial trash can and move on.

          With the problem they are having with their new OS release,even some of the apple users might disagree with you.
          • Re: "even some of the apple users might disagree with you...."

            No different to some Windows user having issues with Windows 8.1 or Linux users having issues with their preferred distro.
      • 20%

        of what systems?
  • Linux Equals Gcc compiler toolchains

    Recompiled a lot of opensource apps some 2 billion lines of code, on 2 old Win pc boxes, as I detected that the gcc toolchains produced at least 40% faster code, one instance 150% faster compared with msvc builds with "equal" compiler optimization switches ! and rock stable execution.

    So one can run "SuperWindows", at least partially, two essentially new winboxes for me,as a tail of Linux/gcc supercomputing tech.
    • I think it is well established that GCC is the best compiler around

      But I don't think it alone creates supercomputers... everything from Macs to FreeBSD boxes run GCC.

      Supercomputers are created by enormous clusters or using MPMP... a server architecture dropped in a room full of air conditioners and concrete reinforced floors, not a compiler result on your home Dell.
      • Actually, that is exactly what they do tend to use.

        The models are first compiled on the "home" Dell. It sits on their desktop...
        The resulting binary can run on the supercomputer just fine.

        In some cases, it runs from the desktop, and distributes its job over the supercomputers nodes. That is one way a number of visualization tools work...