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List co-compiler and one of the original editors of the 12-year-old Top 500 Fastest List Erich Strohmaier told NewsForge that although there were no Linux systems when the list started and only a few at the most five years ago, Linux is now clustering its way to the top.
"The representation of Linux in the Top 500 list has increased quite a bit in the last few years," Strohmaier said. "The number of cluster systems has increased strongly in the last three to four years from a few to more than half the list," he added, referring to 280 cluster systems on the latest list, released Monday.
Japan's Earth Simulator Center remains the world's fastest supercomputer, according to the Top 500 list. The United States owns the second- through fifth-fastest computers in the world.
Strohmaier said that although list creators, who use the Linpack benchmark to measure performance of the world's biggest and baddest machines, do not break down systems by operating system, a look at the number of clusters is a good gauge of the number of Linux systems.
"Most run on one flavor of Linux or another," Strohmaier said. "We don't have precise numbers, but almost every one is running Linux."
Strohmaier also said that IBM, which took the top vendor crown from HP in the latest round, held three of the top five positions with high performance cluster systems, which are used in academic, government, and other supercomputing research.
Given its gains already, other operating system advancements, and the fact that some high-performance jobs are better suited to more traditional supercomputers, Strohmaier said the clustering cavalcade will eventually slow down.
Based on the last list of the Top 500 from the end of last year, industry analyst and Harvard Research Group vice president of Linux strategy Bill Claybrook estimated there were about 170 Linux systems in the Top 500.
As has been the case in industry, Linux is filling the slots previously occupied by Unix systems, such as the SuperDome systems, which have dropped off as Linux has risen, according to Claybrook.
In addition to cluster systems from IBM, HP, Dell, and other manufacturers, Linux has also been used in other systems by SGI and others using Itanium 2 or Xeon processors from Intel, Claybrook said.
The analyst tied the Linux gains on the Top 500 to those of Intel, which provided processing power for 119 systems a year ago, 189 systems six months ago, and a total of 287 systems in the latest list.
"That tells you right there that Linux is dominating," Claybrook said, referring to Itanium 2 and Xeon processors. "Most of those Intel machines are running Linux."
Of Intel's 287 systems on the list, 243 are clusters of some kind and almost all, if not all of them, are running Linux, Claybrook estimated.
"It's growing rapidly, and I think it's going to continue," Claybrook said, referring to the price/performance advantage of the open source operating system. "Eventually, I think you'll find Linux is going to replace everything on the Top 500 list."