The 500 most powerful supercomputers use Linux

Most powerful supercomputers ranking

The world’s most powerful supercomputers use Linux. A supercomputer is a device whose computing capabilities are by far higher than those of common computers. The most powerful supercomputer nowadays exceeds 1,190 Petaflops (PFlops). This is a performance no personal device can achieve.

Besides, it is worth mentioning that Linux has dominated the list of the world’s 500 most powerful supercomputers since 2009.

Linux: more than 20 years in the supercomputing world

The TOP500 list has been updated twice a year (in June and November) since 1993. Linux appeared for the first time in this list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers in June 1998. The first supercomputer using Linux to be included in the list was the Avalon Cluster from the United States, in the 314th position. The Avalon Cluster supercomputer had 140 Alpha EV56 processors.

In the nineties, commercial versions of Unix such as IRIX, UNICOS, AIX or Solaris dominated the TOP500 list. Besides, at that point, Windows and MacOS were already focused on end user devices. But, from 1998 onwards, the evolution of Linux was outstanding in the supercomputing field. Throughout the years, Linux’s growth has been unstoppable; specially between November 2002 and November 2009. During that 7-year period, Linux went from being used in 71 supercomputers to being used in 448 supercomputers.

Currently, Linux is the clear leader in supercomputing. For Linux to lose the leadership, a big hardware revolution should take place. However, as time goes by, we will see if other alternatives emerge to challenge Linux’s leadership.

Why is Linux perfect for supercomputers?

There are many reasons why most supercomputers have chosen Linux. Let’s see some of the main reasons why Linux is the leader in supercomputing:

  • Open operating system. Since it is an open source system, it is 100% customizable. This feature enables the free modification of any part of the code. It is useful both for improving performance and solving any security problem.
  • Lower consumption of resources. As it is customizable, performance can be boosted by specifying that only vital applications are executed. This cannot be done with other operating systems, since they do not usually allow specific configurations.
  • Modular structure. This is one of the most important features of Linux. As it is completely open, new modules can be added without affecting other parts within the operating system. Besides, resource optimization is much easier.
  • Adapted to all kinds of workloads. Its ability to adapt to all kinds of workloads is a very important feature as well. This makes measuring the supercomputer efficiency, consumption and performance easier.
  • Costs. As it is completely free, there is no need to pay for a license to use it. So, the necessary investment is the time required to modify the OS for each project.

The world’s 10 most powerful supercomputers

These are the ten most powerful supercomputers in the world, according to the TOP500 list (May 2024 update).

#1 FrontierUnited StatesHPE Cray OS1.206 PFlops/s1.714,81 PFlops/s
#2 AuroraUnited StatesSUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 SP41.012 PFlops/s1.980,01 PFlops/s
#3 EagleUnited StatesUbuntu 22.04561,20 PFlops/s846,84 PFlops/s
#4 Supercomputer FugakuJapanRed Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)442,01 PFlops/s537,21 PFlops/s
#5 LUMIFinlandHPE Cray OS379,70 PFlops/s531,51 PFlops/s
#6 AlpsSwitzerlandLinux270 PFlops/s353,75 PFlops/s
#7 LeonardoItalyLinux241,20 PFlops/s306,31 PFlops/s
#8 MareNostrum 5 ACC (Accelerated Partition)SpainRedHat 9.1175,30 PFlops/s249,44 PFlops/s
#9 SummitUnited StatesRHEL 7.4148,60 PFlops/s200,79 PFlops/s
#10 Eos NVIDIA DGX SuperPODUnited StatesUbuntu 22.04.3 LTS121,40 PFlops/s188,65 PFlops/s

Evolution of the Top 3 supercomputers since 2000

The following table compiles those supercomputers that have been in the top 3 positions of the TOP500 list from 2000 to 2023.

Top 1Top 2Top 3
June 2000ASCI Red (United States)ASCI Blue-Pacific SST, IBM SP 604e (United States)ASCI Blue Mountain (United States)
November 2000SP Power3 375 MHz 16 way (United States)ASCI Red (United States)ASCI Blue-Pacific SST, IBM SP 604e (United States)
June 2001ASCI White, SP Power3 375 MHz (United States)SP Power3 375 MHz 16 way (United States)ASCI Red (United States)
November 2001ASCI White, SP Power3 375 MHz (United States)AlphaServer SC45, 1 GHz (United States)SP Power3 375 MHz 16 way (United States)
June 2002Earth-Simulator (Japan)ASCI White, SP Power3 375 MHz (United States)AlphaServer SC45, 1 GHz (United States)
November 2002Earth-Simulator (Japan)ASCI Q – AlphaServer SC45, 1.25 GHz (United States)ASCI White, SP Power3 375 MHz (United States)
June 2003Earth-Simulator (Japan)ASCI Q – AlphaServer SC45, 1.25 GHz (United States)MRC Linux Cluster Xeon 2.4 GHz – Quadrics (United States)
November 2003Earth-Simulator (Japan)ASCI Q – AlphaServer SC45, 1.25 GHz (United States)X (United States)
June 2004Earth-Simulator (Japan)Thunder (United States)ASCI Q – AlphaServer SC45, 1.25 GHz (United States)
November 2004BlueGene/L beta-System (United States)Columbia (United States)Earth-Simulator (Japan)
June 2005BlueGene/L (United States)BGW (United States)Columbia (United States)
November 2005BlueGene/L (United States)BGW (United States)ASC Purple (United States)
June 2006BlueGene/L (United States)BGW (United States)ASC Purple (United States)
November 2006BlueGene/L (United States)Red Storm (United States)BGW (United States)
June 2007BlueGene/L (United States)Jaguar (United States)Red Storm (United States)
November 2007BlueGene/L (United States)JUGENE (Germany)SGI Altix ICE 8200 (United States)
June 2008Roadrunner (United States)BlueGene/L (United States)Kraken XT5 (United States)
November 2008Roadrunner (United States)Jaguar (United States)Pleiades (United States)
June 2009Roadrunner (United States)Jaguar (United States)JUGENE (Germany)
November 2009Jaguar (United States)Roadrunner (United States)Kraken XT5 (United States)
June 2010Jaguar (United States)Nebulae (China)Roadrunner (United States)
November 2010Tianhe-1A (China)Jaguar (United States)Nebulae (China)
2011K computer (Japan)Tianhe-1A (China)Jaguar (United States)
June 2012Sequoia (United States)K computer (Japan)Mira (United States)
November 2012Titan (United States)Sequoia (United States)K computer (Japan)
2013Tianhe-2A (China)Titan (United States)Sequoia (United States)
June 2014Tianhe-2A (China)Titan (United States)Sequoia (United States)
2015Tianhe-2A (China)Titan (United States)Sequoia (United States)
2016Sunway TaihuLight (China)Tianhe-2A (China)Titan (United States)
2017Sunway TaihuLight (China)Tianhe-2A (China)Piz Daint (Switzerland)
June 2018Summit (United States)Sunway TaihuLight (China)Sierra (United States)
November 2018Summit (United States)Sierra (United States)Sunway TaihuLight (China)
2019Summit (United States)Sierra (United States)Sunway TaihuLight (China)
2020Supercomputer Fugaku (Japan)Summit (United States)Sierra (United States)
2021Supercomputer Fugaku (Japan)Summit (United States)Sierra (United States)
2022Frontier (United States)Supercomputer Fugaku (Japan)LUMI (Finland)
June 2023Frontier (United States)Supercomputer Fugaku (Japan)LUMI (Finland)
November 2023Frontier (United States)Aurora (United States)Eagle (United States)

List of supercomputers which have ever been in the first position

Here is a list of the supercomputers that have held the first position in the TOP500 list since 1993.

  • CM-5/1024 (United States)
  • Numerical Wind Tunnel (Japan)
  • XP/S140 (United States)
  • SR2201/1024 (Japan)
  • CP-PACS/2048 (Japan)
  • ASCI Red (United States)
  • ASCI White, SP Power3 375 MHz (United States)
  • Earth-Simulator (Japan)
  • BlueGene/L beta-System (United States)
  • BlueGene/L – eServer Blue Gene Solution (United States)
  • Roadrunner (United States)
  • Jaguar (United States)
  • Tianhe-1A (China)
  • K computer (Japan)
  • Sequoia (United States)
  • Titan (United States)
  • Tianhe-2A (China)
  • Sunway TaihuLight (China)
  • Summit (United States)
  • Supercomputer Fugaku (Japan)
  • Frontier (United States)

Supercomputers by continent

This is the distribution of the most powerful supercomputers in the TOP500 list by continent, as of November 2023:

  • North America: 171 supercomputers.
  • Asia: 169 supercomputers.
  • Europe: 143 supercomputers.
  • South America: 10 supercomputers.
  • Oceania: 6 supercomputers.
  • Africa: 1 supercomputer.

The United States: the leader in number of supercomputers

From November 2017 to November 2022, China had been the leader in the number of supercomputers. However, the United States has been the leader since the ranking published in June 2023.

As of November 2023, the US has 161 supercomputers among the world’s 500 most powerful supercomputers. It is followed by China, with 104 supercomputers, and Germany, with 36 supercomputers. The United States is also the leader in performance, with a Rmax of 3,725,850,800 Gigaflops (GFlops).

Rmax is the acronym for “Maximal LINPACK performance achieved”.

In terms of performance, the US is followed by Japan, with a Rmax of 669,834,060 GFlops, and China, with a Rmax of 407,239,784 GFlops.

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