Where Linux crushes Windows like a bug: Supercomputers

Linux is tiny on desktops, powerful on servers, mighty on Web servers, and rules over all on supercomputers.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The fastest computer in the world, Japan's K-Supercomputer, runs Linux.

The fastest computer in the world, Japan's K Computer, runs Linux

The faster a computer goes, the more likely is to have Linux at its heart. The most recent Top500 list of supercomputers shows that, if anything, Linux is becoming even more popular at computing's high end.

In the latest Top500 Supercomputer list, you'll find when you dig into the supercomputer statistics that Linux runs 457 of the world's fastest computers. That's 91.4%. Linux is followed by Unix, with 30 or 6%; mixed operating systems with 11 supercomputers, 2.2%. In the back of the line, you'll find OpenSolaris and BSD with 1 computer and--oh me, oh my--Windows also with just 1 supercomputer to its credit. That's a drop from 4 in the last supercomputer round up in June.

Digging deeper, we find that various customized Linux distributions account for 414 of the supercomputers. AIX, IBM's house brand of Unix, takes a distant second place in individual operating system distributions. It's followed by various versions of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and a variety of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) variants including the RHEL clone CentOS. Compute Node Linux is the last significant solo Linux distribution on the list.

Other operating systems that just make the list includes Oracle's all but dead OpenSolaris with one entry. The sole Windows entry, Windows HPC 2008, placed 58th.

So, while Linux has only a minute share of the desktop, a big chunk of the server market, is the platform for most Web servers, when it comes to one arena: the fastest of the fast, supercomputers, Linux absolutely rules.

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