Only 3 of the world's most powerful computers run Windows

Even though it still hasn’t found its way onto our desktops, in the world of supercomputers, Linux is king. Even Microsoft can't touch them there. Case in point: a new study showing that a whopping 94% of supercomputers run Linux.

Top500, a regular report on supercomputing stats, says that 469 of the world’s 500 most powerful computers are running Linux, up from the 462 they reported in June. The rest of the mix is mostly made up of Unix and BSD variants, but Windows isn’t left entirely in the cold – 3 supercomputers, up from just 2 in June, are running Windows, although unfortunately it looks like they’re restricted to Windows HPC Server 2008 and Azure. We’d love to see the Start Screen running on one of these babies!

Still, even though that’s a gain for Windows this year, it’s down from 4, the record number of systems running Microsoft’s OS, most recently achieved back in June of 2011. On the other hand, Windows’ pattern of growth pretty much lines up with the other non-Linux OSes, coming in fits and starts, sinking into near oblivion before pulling out to another high point. The only winner here is Linux.

Linux supercomputer stats

As the chart above shows, Linux is still steadily increasing its supercomputing marketshare. Why? For starters, it’s fast (some distributions can run at speeds as high as 17.59 petaFLOPS), and the fact that it’s limitlessly customizable can't hurt, either. 

Not that that’s hurting anyone. Microsoft isn’t making their money by supporting the world’s top tier computers, so there's no need to waste your time waiting for the Year of the Windows Supercomputers. There’s way more of the green stuff to be made from selling to the little guys. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Source: Top500 | Via Linux.com

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Was the first code name for Surface "Georgetown"?

Next Story

SpongeBob and more Nick stars in new Windows 8 app

32 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Supercomputer? Yea I own one of those - Power Mac G4 baby! (at the time of it's release the G4 chip broke the MFLOPs limit that was set designating a supercomputer.)

Why it's always Windows vs Linux? With linux you can have an higher low level customization and it's obvious that this kind of systems require more specific operative system. These articles are more than stupid.

As the article states, there are only 469 of these super computers out of 500, that are running Linux.

Why would MS even bother messing with that area of the market when there are billions of us Joe Blows out here who want that GUI and everything else involved? Not to mention what's NOT involved like having to do everything from a command line, in Linux?

cork1958 said,
As the article states, there are only 469 of these super computers out of 500, that are running Linux.

Why would MS even bother messing with that area of the market when there are billions of us Joe Blows out here who want that GUI and everything else involved? Not to mention what's NOT involved like having to do everything from a command line, in Linux?

Please - HPC Server was originally announced over a decade ago (simultaneously with Windows 2000 Professional/Server); it's not exactly wet behind the ears. However, UNIX (and Linux distributions customized for clustering) have been around longer, and if you think corporate LAN administrators are conservative, HPC server admins are, if anything, far more conservative that way. The TOP500 list was, in fact, pretty much dominated by UNIX until five years ago - the reason why Linux is replacing it is due to cost and being far more customizable than even UNIX; also, there is little retaining from the admin side in Linux vs. UNIX (if written properly, there may be no retraining required at all). The same can't be said for a Windows server - even a Server Core (no GUI) install is no walk in the park to administer - PowerShell is too different from the typical command shells of either Linux or UNIX.

Windows HPC Server 2008 is pretty old now, when they release a updated Windows 8 based version we could see it picked up by more supercomputers going forward since it brings a long list of improvements that scale from small single CPU servers right up to big beasts in datacenters. Hell, if Azure itself is anything to go by I'd say Windows can work just fine in a supercomputer setup, maybe not as custom as Linux sure but it depends on their needs I guess.

GP007 said,
Windows HPC Server 2008 is pretty old now, when they release a updated Windows 8 based version we could see it picked up by more supercomputers going forward since it brings a long list of improvements that scale from small single CPU servers right up to big beasts in datacenters. Hell, if Azure itself is anything to go by I'd say Windows can work just fine in a supercomputer setup, maybe not as custom as Linux sure but it depends on their needs I guess.

You mean Server 2012-based - in fact, they have (called Server 2012 Datacenter) and it's available now. however, there still remains a great deal of FUD about Windows-based servers to overcome.

PGHammer said,

You mean Server 2012-based - in fact, they have (called Server 2012 Datacenter) and it's available now. however, there still remains a great deal of FUD about Windows-based servers to overcome.

I don't know if Datacenter is the same as their HPC version, even if they're both based on the same NT core. I never looked into it in detail.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Thanks for that, I needed a good laugh.

yowanvista said,
But 2013 will be the year of the linux desktop

So just to be clear...

What does this say about Windows?
It hasn't been adapted to run on many of the supercomputer architectures.
Not much else.

What does this say about Linux?
It can be put together as needed, and ends up looking nothing like Linux when you look at Cray Linux Environment (CLE).
It is free, and when you are dealing with a 1000 servers, even a 'well funded' company would be silly to spend $3,000,000 on Windows Licensing.

Linux's only read advantage is easy access to source code and it is free. It is not a superior OS model, and even for supercomputing, is not the best kernel design to start with.

Let's put this to a test. A Server/Desktop Linux distribution running on the Linus approved kernel starts to hit thread management overhead at 8 CPUs, and by the time you have a single system with 16CPUs the overhead starts to eat any performance gained by adding in more CPUs. Even Linus himself has stated that although Linux is technically not limited to a number of CPUs, DO NOT expect Linux to ever handle more than 32CPUs in a single system well.

This is why we find modified architectures and cluster based supercomputing models used. Even the Cray supercomputer nodes are having to work around the Linux CPU limitations, and that is even with their modified Cray Linux Environment kernel.

A couple of other things to point out...

Technically, calling these systems Linux Based is not even correct. Many are running modified Cray based APU hybrid kernel technologies, that have Linux origins, but have as much in common with the official Linux Kernel or any distribution as a Puma has with a Donkey. Sure they are both mammals, but this doesn't mean the Donkey you download is going to be anything like the Puma running on supercomputers.

If you want to base your perception of performance on what the fastest supercomputers are using, then everyone needs to run out and buy AMD CPUs, because they at the heart of the FASTEST supercomputers. (Silly right?)

Or it should be, as everyone here should know that it is a FACT that single core execution speeds of AMD doesn't even come close to Intel. (An i3 or i5 when running software that is using one or two cores will run faster than on a high end 8 or 16 core AMD CPU.)

Windows is design for customer and not supercomputers. One of the other reason why they choose Linux over Windows is that it's an Open Source Kernel and it more customizing.

I highly doubt any company builds a supercomputer just to run Windows and see the new Start Screen.

Windows 8 runs faster than my Ubuntu dual boot; I think they should run Windows on more supercomputers. They'll be surprised how fast it is.

spy beef said,
Windows 8 runs faster than my Ubuntu dual boot; I think they should run Windows on more supercomputers. They'll be surprised how fast it is.

lol k.

Not sure if ubuntu is the linux we're talking about here.

spy beef said,
Windows 8 runs faster than my Ubuntu dual boot; I think they should run Windows on more supercomputers. They'll be surprised how fast it is.

Very few Linux super-computers run Unity, if they have any graphical interface at all. The advantage comes down to bare-metal speed and processing power, not how fast they can navigate their way around an interface.

I do agree though, while it has improved since 12.04, Unity still looks really nice and works well for me, but feels a little slow.

Is this and ill crafted joke? Ubuntu is the slowest and most bloated distro I've ever used, it is not a good comparison for how fast linux is which is why I hope your comment is a sarcastic joke. If not you have a serious flaw in your understanding of linux and what it actually is.

spy beef said,
Windows 8 runs faster than my Ubuntu dual boot; I think they should run Windows on more supercomputers. They'll be surprised how fast it is.

And for the record, the article is another classic example of unprofessional journalism by neowin. Linux isn't used because it's simply free. It's not "free", it's "Open Source" there is a fundamental difference here and you should know this before posting an article which will get trawled by Google and make money for neowin.

It's used partly because its the most appropriate choice for programming with and running complicated mathematical computations and algorithms. Not to mention it's a rock solid server platform with the ability to hack up, mold and customize until the desired solution and purpose is met. They probably get hacked up to such an extent that the OS barely resembles anything we know of as linux or unix anyways.

As long as Windows remains closed source that will always be the way, *nix will always be used for these applications. It seems that most astronomy and space sciences are also conducted on *nix servers & computers for the same reasons as previously mentioned.

Linux/Unix/BSD or whatever else that isn't windows/mac is solving/answering some of the biggest questions humanity has right now.

Dorza said,

Linux/Unix/BSD or whatever else that isn't windows/mac is solving/answering some of the biggest questions humanity has right now.

First of all Linux isn't the be all and end all, as a user myself the experience is just second rate from hardware to software support then over to how the kernel deals with drivers.

Second of all, Linux may be running on these super computers "solving" and "answering" as you say the "biggest questions humanity has" PS I'd love some examples (most of them are doing mass financial calculations or novelty maths algorithms like calculating Pi to the 1 trillionth decimal only a select few are actually doing anything beneficial) but the computers interpreting, communicating and making it all work are PCs running some form of NT kernel.

First: I'm not sure how you managed it, maybe it was your bias and over protective nature toward Microsoft given your avatar but where did I state that Linux was the be end and all?...err nowhere! I stated a fact, handle it!

Second: I don't have to prove anything to you. However just to humor you I will provide a single example. I hope you can understand my example, it requires you to figure it out and read between the lines....

CERN, Fermilab. Between them there are over 50,000 systems running linux. A linux distro called Scientific Linux or SLC at CERN. Each lab uses this distro on their distributed networks, now go figure it out. Head in the direction where your brain makes a connection between a) systems are crunching data, and B) that data provides information to scientists about the origin of the universe, to c) scientists use that data to form hypothesis and equations to solve the mysteries of the universe. To d) how that relates to humanity including you. I mean, you are human right?

But hey I guess that data is just "novelty maths" to you.

If you don't understand or appreciate the gravity of what these labs are doing for humanity then don't bother try to shoot down my last comment in the other post which snide quoting of my sentence its just pathetic.

ingramator said,

First of all Linux isn't the be all and end all, as a user myself the experience is just second rate from hardware to software support then over to how the kernel deals with drivers.

Second of all, Linux may be running on these super computers "solving" and "answering" as you say the "biggest questions humanity has" PS I'd love some examples (most of them are doing mass financial calculations or novelty maths algorithms like calculating Pi to the 1 trillionth decimal only a select few are actually doing anything beneficial) but the computers interpreting, communicating and making it all work are PCs running some form of NT kernel.

Free has nothing to do with it, if these companies have the money to build a supercomputer then they have the money to buy a server license, The main reason I can see is Linux is open source and allows the companies to edit and tailor the kernel/code to work on their system as they see fit.

Toysoldier said,
Free has nothing to do with it, if these companies have the money to build a supercomputer then they have the money to buy a server license, The main reason I can see is Linux is open source and allows the companies to edit and tailor the kernel/code to work on their system as they see fit.

This is the answer. Linux can have a lot of its fat trimmed off and an optimized kernel. Consumers of Windows tend to like this fat (ex. having a GUI and the ability to handle a wide variety of hardware situations).

billyea said,

This is the answer. Linux can have a lot of its fat trimmed off and an optimized kernel. Consumers of Windows tend to like this fat (ex. having a GUI and the ability to handle a wide variety of hardware situations).

^This. Linux is an that can be manipulated to the Nth degree to solve almost any problem.

billyea said,

This is the answer. Linux can have a lot of its fat trimmed off and an optimized kernel. Consumers of Windows tend to like this fat (ex. having a GUI and the ability to handle a wide variety of hardware situations).

Optimize the kernel FOR THEIR SPECIFIC configuration/needs - YES.
Fat Trimmed Off - No so much, especially in the past few years, at least not the items you use in reference.

People still get 'caught' on thinking that a GUI interface is heavy. This isn't true, at least not on Windows. If this was a typical *nix implementation like Linux you would be correct, especially considering how these are usually implemented. XWindows + Window Manager = Bloat

Windows NT was beat up in the Server world back in 1993 for having a GUI by default that was always enabled. Yet before long, it was outperforming Novell and (pick a *nix here) even with its GUI that people 'thought' was heavy.

Back then, the Windows NT GUI aspect was consuming a TINY fraction of RAM (Something like 256KB) and eating .0001% of CPU resources, basically just ensuring the video was getting refreshed to the monitor.

Because of how Windows NT works and has always been able to dynamically handle and load drivers/services, nothing is ever 'heavy' unless it is running, as the kernel doesn't have to prestart lower level services for items until they are needed.


Also, just to be factual, the GUI is no longer needed for Windows, as it can and does run without it, go look up Windows 7/8 Embedded. (Not WinCE)

And we are not talking about traditional Linux in these examples, when they are more GP-GPU hybrid focused running a very specialized version of the kernel.

One thing that has changed and will be changing comes from the Windows 7 generation of NT, where single server CPU management has leapfrogged traditional Linux. This is why you are seeing a lot of mid range supercomputers that have more CPUs per system, and are also adding in the GP-GPU hybrid features that Windows inherently supports.

(The Hybrid CPU/GPU model is another set of technologies added to Windows 8 that hasn't been talked about. It extends the Windows 7 GP-GPU management features and integrates a Hybrid CPU/GPU model that lets the OS send GPU calls through the CPU or vise versa depending on how the code is written.)

This is an inherent new features of Windows 8, and if you look at the CLE (Cray Linux), will notice is also using a hybrid model that is similar.

The difference: Windows 8 has this technology literally running in a Windows Phone 8, Tablets, Desktops, Servers, and Supercomputers. Linux you only get this by buying Cray system that has their version of Linux, as this is not a part of the Linux kernel that normal people have access.

Edited by thenetavenger, Nov 15 2012, 6:22am :

billyea said,

This is the answer. Linux can have a lot of its fat trimmed off and an optimized kernel. Consumers of Windows tend to like this fat (ex. having a GUI and the ability to handle a wide variety of hardware situations).

I've never seen what Windows HPC looks like but it probably doesn't have a GUI on each individual server node.

The big difference is that Microsoft has to come up with generic solutions to fit the needs of all users. When it comes to Linux, you can, for instance, change how memory management or process schedulling work by recompiling the kernel with a switch... This makes it very flexible.

And we have all this Linux technology on tablets and phones too... remember that android is a linux OS.
Don't forget that most of TVs, modems, routers and access points also run linux, so you probably use it more than you think

thenetavenger said,

Optimize the kernel FOR THEIR SPECIFIC configuration/needs - YES.
Fat Trimmed Off - No so much, especially in the past few years, at least not the items you use in reference.

People still get 'caught' on thinking that a GUI interface is heavy. This isn't true, at least not on Windows. If this was a typical *nix implementation like Linux you would be correct, especially considering how these are usually implemented. XWindows + Window Manager = Bloat

Windows NT was beat up in the Server world back in 1993 for having a GUI by default that was always enabled. Yet before long, it was outperforming Novell and (pick a *nix here) even with its GUI that people 'thought' was heavy.

Back then, the Windows NT GUI aspect was consuming a TINY fraction of RAM (Something like 256KB) and eating .0001% of CPU resources, basically just ensuring the video was getting refreshed to the monitor.

Because of how Windows NT works and has always been able to dynamically handle and load drivers/services, nothing is ever 'heavy' unless it is running, as the kernel doesn't have to prestart lower level services for items until they are needed.


Also, just to be factual, the GUI is no longer needed for Windows, as it can and does run without it, go look up Windows 7/8 Embedded. (Not WinCE)

And we are not talking about traditional Linux in these examples, when they are more GP-GPU hybrid focused running a very specialized version of the kernel.

One thing that has changed and will be changing comes from the Windows 7 generation of NT, where single server CPU management has leapfrogged traditional Linux. This is why you are seeing a lot of mid range supercomputers that have more CPUs per system, and are also adding in the GP-GPU hybrid features that Windows inherently supports.

(The Hybrid CPU/GPU model is another set of technologies added to Windows 8 that hasn't been talked about. It extends the Windows 7 GP-GPU management features and integrates a Hybrid CPU/GPU model that lets the OS send GPU calls through the CPU or vise versa depending on how the code is written.)

This is an inherent new features of Windows 8, and if you look at the CLE (Cray Linux), will notice is also using a hybrid model that is similar.

The difference: Windows 8 has this technology literally running in a Windows Phone 8, Tablets, Desktops, Servers, and Supercomputers. Linux you only get this by buying Cray system that has their version of Linux, as this is not a part of the Linux kernel that normal people have access.

True. Windows Server has a no-GUI option as well, and has had it since 2008 (yes - 2012 retains this option, called Core, across all their SKUs); still, unless you have been following Windows Server (and, to be frank, how many *server admins* are truly agnostic when it comes to server OSes?), would you know that?

PGHammer said,

True. Windows Server has a no-GUI option as well, and has had it since 2008 (yes - 2012 retains this option, called Core, across all their SKUs); still, unless you have been following Windows Server (and, to be frank, how many *server admins* are truly agnostic when it comes to server OSes?), would you know that?


Noone, I know plenty of those old fashion IT guys that grew up building their own computer from scratch and coding their own programs and games since it was very hard to even aquire games as a consumer.
They want simple point and clicky GUI's where the OS itself does as much as possible for them.
They are lazy, always have been and always will be (most programmers start(ed) programming so they could automate tasks i.e. laziness) and want to do their stuff with as little effort as possible.
And for CLI you need to memorize allot of commands, functions and write scripts for basic stuff.
Where with point and click, you just have to remember how to get where you want to be.