Almost all the world's fastest supercomputers run Linux

498 out of 500 of the world's speediest supercomputers now use Linux.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The latest ranking of the world's fastest supercomputers is out and Linux owns it once more.

China's Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer

The world fastest computer, China's Sunway TaihuLight, runs Linux. So does the rest of the world's 385 fastest supercomputers.

The TOP500 List shows 498 out of 500 of the speediest computers on the planet are running Linux. Linux has long-dominated the supercomputer ratings, but now it's getting close to knocking out all its competition.

Other than systems running Linux, there are two Chinese supercomputers running IBM AIX, a Unix variant. This pair, tied at 386 and 387, may not be long for the list. That's because supercomputers are growing ever faster.

Systems running faster than 1 petaflop now occupy the first 117 positions -- nearly a quarter of the TOP500. Last year, there were only 81. At the bottom of the list, the slowest system runs at 349.3 teraflops. In November 2015, the bottom supercomputer ran at 206.3 teraflops.

At 434.8 teraflops, I wouldn't count on the Unix systems being around for another year. If I'm correct, Linux will completely dominate the list by this time 2017.

The fastest supercomputer today, China's Sunway TaihuLight, runs at 93 petaflops. A petaflop is 1,000 teraflops or 1 quadrillion floating-point operations per second.

When the first TOP500 supercomputer list was compiled in June 1993, Linux was just gathering steam. Since 1998 when it first appeared on the list, Linux has consistently dominated the top 10. Since June 2010, Linux has run 90 percent of the world's fastest computers.

Before Linux jumped ahead, Unix was supercomputing's top dog. Since 2003, the top operating system has flipped from being 96 percent Unix to being 96 percent Linux. By 2004, Linux had taken over the lead and has yet to surrender it.

By 2017, Linux may have eliminated all its competition.

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