94 percent of the top 500 supercomputers use Linux. Why?


The majority of consumer computers run either Windows or Mac OS X, and some people may have the impression that supercomputers are the same way—but a staggering 94 percent of the top 500 supercomputers run Linux, as opposed to a mere 1.58 percent on the consumer market.

Many of us seem to forget that most supercomputers and servers use Linux—that means some of the most popular websites we access, such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc. are all hosted on Linux servers. There’s a few that still use Windows, however Linux is the preferred operating system for supercomputers and servers namely because of its open-source modular nature, where each module performs its own distinct duties. The other two major operating systems, Windows and Mac OS X, are closed-source, severely limiting its customization options, and people from casual users to network administrators can modify Linux to their own preferences. Many people often have the idea that casual users and non-techies use Mac OS X, and gamers, businesses and tech-savvy individuals use Windows.

Linux is also adaptable—according to this article on Unixmen, “Linux kernel is generic, as much as possible. This implies that single source code can be written to run on large supercomputers and also on small even hand-held gadgets; this is entirely up to how one uses Linux, either on giant systems or smaller systems. There is no need to add fundamental and large changes to the kernel in order to run on larger or smaller systems.” We even mentioned how someone was able to access the Internet with a calculator using the Linux OS, so whether you run a supercomputer with Linux or hack a calculator to use Linux, it is very adaptable to the device you’re using. This is also a demonstration on how Linux is also scalable to take on larger loads of data.

Other non-technical factors include the fact that it has community-based support and best of all—it’s free, so this cuts down on the costs that it takes to run a server or a supercomputer.