Supercomputing Freakonomics – Finding Meaning Beyond the Headlines

Twice a year, the Top500 Project publishes its list of the fastest supercomputers in the world. In the last announcement, we continue to see Linux dominating the list. This is nothing new since Linux has been dominating since the mid-2000s. In fact, Linux share in supercomputing looks a lot like Microsoft’s historical share of the desktop market. I thought it would be interesting to take a step back and look at the performance capability of these computers as a whole and also how the rise of Linux is mirroring the geographical expansion of supercomputers.

Everybody tends to watch the number of Linux systems on the top500, but there’s a fascinating story being told by the Rmax performance numbers (Rmax is the maximum performance of a computer (measured in Gflop/s) achieved in the HPL benchmark. In many ways, this is a much more enlightening statistic, because it shows us the overall nature of performance on this list, instead of just focusing on individual computers. (This time around, five Linux systems were actually bumped off the bottom of the list, even though Linux’s *total* computing power grew by 38%.)


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