Linux Is The OS Of Choice For All Top 500 Supercomputers, Here’s Why
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Linux is the OS of choice for all Top 500 supercomputers, here’s why

6139
By Tekato Longkumer Updated: Oct 04, 2020 6:41 pm
Fugaku supercomputer
Credit: RIKEN

Dimapur, Oct. 4 (EMN): Japan’s supercomputer Fugaku is the fastest supercomputer in the world at the moment. Fugaku, another name for Mount Fuji, dethroned the US ‘Summit’ supercomputer from IBM on the Top 500 list, a ranking of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

Top 500 is an independent project launched in 1993 to benchmark supercomputers with its LINPACK Benchmark where a computer is given a dense system of linear equations to solve. In the Top 500 benchmark, Fugaku scored 415.5 petaflops, 2.8 times as fast as IBM’s Summit, the nearest competitor.

This is the first time that an ARM based computer has topped the list. Fugaku is co-developed by Riken and Fujitsu and makes use of Fujitsu’s 48-core A64FX system-on-chip. It also uses Linux as its operating system (OS) and so does all the remaining 499 of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

A brief history on Linux

The year is 1991 and Linus Torvalds, a student from the University of Helsinki, announces his pet project on the internet: An early stage Linux operating system kernel developed on MINIX using the GNU C compiler. In 1992 Linux supports a Graphical User Interface or GUI for the first time after the X Window System was ported to Linux by Orest Zborowski.

Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds. Credit: TED

In 1994, Thomas Sterling and Donald Becker at NASA wanted to build a supercomputer made up of a cluster of standard PCs as a cost-effective alternative to large supercomputers. They ended up developing Beowulf, a cluster of 16 Intel 486 DX4 processors that ran on Linux. The success of the project inspired many similar projects with Linux as the go to OS.

In the late nineties, IBM began looking at Linux as the operating system to pave new ways of creating mission-critical enterprise software. In 2000, IBM announced that it would fully embrace the Linux ecosystem for it systems strategy. A year later, IBM invested $1 billion to back the Linux movement, embracing it as an operating system for IBM servers and software.

In 2008, the first commercial Android device, T-mobile G1, was launched in the United States. The device ran on the mobile Android OS by Google which is based on a modified version of the Linux 2.6 kernel.

T mobile G1
T-Mobile G1, the world’s first Android phone. Credit: Amazon.

In 2020, we cannot escape Linux because it is everywhere. It runs the cloud and it runs the servers where the majority of websites, web applications and online services are hosted on. If you have accessed the internet with your non-Apple device then you have used Linux.

Why do all supercomputers run Linux?

The main reason why Linux is so popular with supercomputers is its open source nature. Building a supercomputer is an expensive affair. Ideally you would want to cut costs by avoiding a proprietary operating system that charges license fees for every processor or user. Linux being a free open source OS makes it an ideal candidate.

Linux is also a modular system. It is highly customisable and can be stripped down to its basic kernel version. Supercomputers are machines built for a specific purpose. You would want to remove some unnecessary code from the OS to increase performance and eliminate potential bugs.

Linux
Tux – The Linux penguin official open source mascot. Credit: redandblack

Linux is highly scalable due to the generic nature of its kernel. It can run on either giant systems or smaller systems. This makes it possible to make Linux kernels run on 2mb systems as well as 1tb systems without any problem.

Linux has been tried and tested for decades. Being an open source OS the community support is unparalleled among other systems. It has been the standard for building large multi-processor clusters for years now and its abilities as a supercomputing OS has been enhanced over the years. The code contributed by projects around the world has helped shape Linux as the undisputed OS king for similar supercomputing projects.

Here is a year-wise list of Linux system shares of all Top 500 supercomputers:

ListCountSystem Share (%)
Jun-20514102.8
Nov-19500100
Jun-19500100
Nov-18500100
Jun-18500100
Nov-17500100
Jun-1749899.6
Nov-1649899.6
Jun-1649799.4
Nov-1549498.8
Jun-1548997.8
Nov-1448697.2
Jun-1448597
Nov-1348296.4
Jun-1347695.2
Nov-1246993.8
Jun-1246292.4
Nov-1145791.4
Jun-1145791.4
Nov-1046092
Jun-1045691.2
Nov-0944889.6
Jun-0944288.4
Nov-0843987.8
Jun-0842785.4
Nov-0742785.4
Jun-0739178.2
Nov-0637675.2
Jun-0636773.4
Nov-0537274.4
Jun-0531863.6
Nov-0430561
Jun-0429158.2
Nov-0319839.6
Jun-0313927.8
Nov-027114.2
Jun-026713.4
Nov-01397.8
Jun-01448.8
Nov-005410.8
Jun-00285.6
Nov-99183.6
Jun-99173.4
Nov-9810.2
Jun-9810.2
Credit: Top500
6139
By Tekato Longkumer Updated: Oct 04, 2020 6:41:48 pm
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