Supercomputers have always been the talk and if you keep yourself updated with that genre of information you must have definitely heard of the Sunway TaihuLight, the Chinese super-computing beast that has topped the charts on top500, a list of the top 500 supercomputers on the planet.
Other names include Titan, IBM’s Sequoia and Tianhe. These are all supercomputers that have been on the top of the lists and guess what, they all run on Linux. Today most of the Supercomputers run Linux for speed and customisability and Linux has never failed to impress.
A little History
The era of Supercomputers had begun in the 1960’s with the IBM 7030 Stretch and some other handful of computers at the Control Data Corporation(CDC) that had exceptional processing abilities. However, they got fairly popular in the early nineties with the revolution of the computer industry
The first Cray 1 Supercomputer manufactured by Cray Research had been made for the Los Alamos lab and it was sent out without any software on it. They had to later get an operating system made for their computer from Livermore labs.
Most of the computers wouldn’t get an Operating System with them so almost every time a new operating system had to be made tailored to that specific device. Since Supercomputers are made for doing specific tasks like weather analysis, space expedition etc.
How Linux Prospered?
By the dawn of the 90’s, the companies found it extremely frustrating to keep making new systems for their supercomputers from scratch. Often, the development cost of the software would be on par with the hardware, None of the operating systems could be reused.
This led to the adoption of UNIX in Supercomputers. Since it was free and they could modify it as per their needs, the supercomputer manufacturers had a new base OS to work on. Subsequently, Linux rose to fame and popularity among manufacturers for similar reasons.
With Linux as the base for their system, creating GUI for scientific programs and managing data become easier and today almost every supercomputer runs Linux.
Supercomputer Operating Systems
The Tianhe 2 from China runs on a mod of Kylin Linux which is Linux for China. The Cray Linux Environment is the Linux made specially by Cray for its computers. Since Most Supercomputers are built for specific tasks, the makers want to be able to design them specifically as per their requirements and Linux fits right in.
Linux has always been the choice for a lot of things that involved extensive customization. Supercomputers are usually supposed to do one task, but they have to do that task the best in the world. Such a system would need a robust and fast Operating System. Also having a base to work on reduces a lot of costs and makes it economically effective.