Linux Supercomputing Dominance: A Look Under the Hood

A few weeks ago, the top500 Supercomputer list came out, as it does each November. As expected, Linux is still the most used OS for supercomputing, as it has been since taking the list by storm in the early 2000s.

While this is certainly a feel-good thing to write about (who doesn’t love being #1?) it’s worth taking some time to think about how this happened, and why. Linux’s rise to dominance at the forefront of modern science was no accident.

One of the main reasons it has done so well is that quite frankly, supercomputing is somewhat weird computing. Supercomputers are dramatically different from the average PC or server, even the supers that are x86 based. This is due in large part to the way the systems are connected together and pass data around, for example, exotic switching infrastructures, stringent requirements for efficient message passing, efficient and rapid dispersal of data among many nodes, and so on.


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