Linux is Running on Almost All of the Top 500 Supercomputers

Linux rules supercomputers

Brief: Linux may not have a decent market share in desktop, but it rules the supercomputers with 498 out of the top 500 supercomputers running on Linux.

Linux is still running on more than 99% of the top 500 fastest supercomputers in the world. Same as last year, 498 out of top 500 supercomputers run Linux while remaining 2 run Unix.

No supercomputer dared to run Windows (pun intended). And of course, no supercomputer runs macOS because Apple has not manufactured the ‘iSupercomputer’ yet.

[Tweet “#Linux now runs on 498 out of top 500 #supercomputers in the world”]

This information is collected by an independent organization Top500 that publishes the details about the top 500 fastest supercomputers known to them, twice a year. You can go the website and filter out the list based on country, OS type used, vendors etc.Don’t worry, I’ll do it for you to present some of the most interesting facts from this year’s list.

No worries if you don’t want to do that because I’ll present some of the interesting facts here.

Linux rules supercomputers because it is open source

20 years back, most of the supercomputers ran Unix. But eventually, Linux took the lead and become the preferred choice of operating system for the supercomputers.

Growth of Linux on Supercomputers
Growth of Linux on Supercomputers. Image credit: ZDNet

The main reason for this growth is the open source nature of Linux. Supercomputers are specific devices built for specific purposes. This requires a custom operating system optimized for those specific needs.

Unix, being a closed source and propriety operating system, is an expensive deal when it comes to customization. Linux, on the other hand, is free and easier to customize. Engineering teams can easily customize a Linux-based operating system for each of the supercomputers.

However, I wonder why open source variants such as FreeBSD failed to gain popularity on supercomputers.

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To summarize the list of top 500 supercomputers based on OS this year:

  • Linux: 498
  • Unix: 2
  • Windows: 0
  • MacOS: 0

To give you a year wise summary of Linux shares on the top 500 supercomputers:

  • In 2012: 94%
  • In 2013: 95%
  • In 2014: 97%
  • In 2015: 97.2%
  • In 2016: 99.6%
  • In 2017: 99.6
  • In 2018: ???

The only two supercomputers running Unix are ranked 493rd and 494th:

Top 500 Supercomputers running Unix
Supercomputers running Unix

Some other interesting stats about fastest supercomputers

Top 10 Fastest Supercomputers in 2017
Top 10 Fastest Supercomputers in 2017

Moving Linux aside, here are some other interesting stats about supercomputers this year:

  • World’s fastest supercomputer Sunway TaihuLight is based in National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, China. It has a speed of 93PFLOPS.
  • World’s second fastest supercomputer is also based in China (Tianhe-2) while the third spot is taken by Switzerland-based Piz Daint.
  • Out of the top 10 fastest supercomputers, USA has 5, Japan and China have 2 each while Switzerland has 1.
  • United States leads with 168 supercomputers in the list followed by China with 160 supercomputers.
  • Japan has 33, Germany has 28, France has 18, Saudi Arabia has 6, India has 4 and Russia has 3 supercomputers in the list.

Some interesting facts, isn’t it? You can filter out your own list here to further details.

While you are reading it, do share this article on social media. It’s an achievement for Linux and we got to show off :D


  1. Just my opinion, but I think BSD licensed OSes aren’t used often because of the very nature of the licenses. Anyone can take what you have done, make proprietary changes and keep it closed source (Playstation 3&4, Nintendo Switch). By using the GPL license, large companies can ensure that others will improve their product through FOSS contributions, without the risk of real competition from small nimble players.

    FreeBSD runs 35% of the content on the internet every night (Netflix) and powers one of the largest IM systems in the world (WhatsApp). It’s not a technology problem, it’s a license thing.

  2. All these facts are well known. I think what we have to ask ourselves is: why Linux, in spite of being a superior OS, lags behind commercial OSs?

    Probably part of answer lies in the attitude of early users / developers who looked down upon normal users as an inferior species.

    Another reason is that no organisation developing Linux for desktop has so much money power as to be able to push Linux. Google has been able to push Android due to its money muscle.

    The prliforation of distributions is another factor.

    Of course, lack of marketing is a big factor.

    How can we overcome these Hurdles and increase share of Linux in desktops.

  3. Unrelated question:
    Reading your previous articles, I faced a question (and I have no idea if it is replied before). It would be nice to compile a list of on-line resources that every Linux admin should subscribed to.

  4. What about “mini computers” what about ultrabooks ?
    People are disappointed by how bad chrome/firefox performs , scrolling a page is missiona impossible ,
    playing a 60fps youtube video is impossible without using vlc media player and a chrome plugin.
    Why is that ? who’s fault is it ? intel graphics drivers are open from what I know ! Why ms windows 10 edge
    completely flies on internet , fast web page scrolling , 1080p 60fps youtube video playback etc etc.
    Sorry but installing Linux on this laptop/ultrabook is same as putting skateboard wheels on my Ferrari !

    • Well for starters, LINUX in general was never focused on offering a full desktop experience. It was an OS utilized by highly skilled individuals mostly for scientific research, military purposes and logistical data center objectives. It wasn’t until much later that the average individual yearned for a viable desktop os alternative to the Windows & Mac OS.

      When you ask why is performance better in regards to video playback on Windows the answer is simply because the developers were instructed to provide the best user friendly desktop experience possible for paying customers. LINUX for the most part has always been about backend management & security. No Mac or Windows OS holds a candle to LINUX security features in general.

      You need to remember that LINUX is mostly build upon by volunteers & individuals passionate about technology. Therefore, there may be inconsistency along the way which don’t allow an application ect.. to function at optimal levels all the time. It’s up to the LINUX community to work together to bring forth viable solutions to enhance overall performance.

      Many essential codecs, drivers & applications are not free. Oracle Java SDK, parts of FFMPEG & Adobe Flash Player may not be pre-installed without paying licensing fees or obtaining permission from their respective copyright holders. LINUX developers do their best to find opensource alternatives which provide the best experience possible without breaking the law. So yes, performance may take a hit. Furthermore, not all hardware devices offer LINUX drivers so you are at the mercy of manufacturers or some highly skilled developers whom are up to the task.

      As far as mini computers & poor performance you do have options. Install a lighter desktop environment, limit cpu utilzation by non essential applications, shutdown unecessary background processes ect .. As far as I know, FIREFOX can be tweaked & optimized to enhanced performance. ( In URL entry box type .. about:config ) & that will offer you the option to modify the default backend settings. If tweaking, updating drivers & upgrading hardware fail, it’s time for a new computer.

      LINUX can do so much more than you could ever imagine. Especially if you are a terminal ninja.

      • Yes it can but when it comes to graphics and 3d its always behind , just stop doing anything else and start focusing on a single aspect that makes Linux suck ! how simple is that ?
        Other than that , Linux is a really good os , I can replace windows without too much hassle , the only bad is graphics performance.

        • PS1: And no lack of apps or games is not a case for me I have everything I want , the only bad is graphics , graphics drivers needs optimization

          • Read the article about Kernel 4.12. It supports exactly what I said. It offers improved video card support. This will continue with each subsequent release.

        • As far as LINUX & 3D gaming goes, that is beginning to change. Just look how many game studios are working on making their games LINUX compatible. Scroll through steampowered & you will notice a small selection of games for LINUX systems. As stated in my previous post, LINUX has never been about offering a user friendly desktop experience.

          I’ve literally tested over 300 variants of LINUX & I always come back to UBUNTU, OPENSUSE or a respin / fork of DEBIAN. I personally prefer UBUNTU because it offers the highest compatibility rate across the board. Furthermore, it’s highly customizable & has a massive online support community. Where else can you access such a rich online repository loaded with free software specifically targeted towards LINUX.

          As game studios begin to crank out more games for LINUX, video card companies will begin to enhance their support for video cards. In turn, they will be more willing to work with the LINUX community to ensure improved performance. Many issues associated with performance are due to codecs & licensing issues.

          Take for example blue-ray support. You have to jump through loops to make blue-ray discs work with LINUX. This is another case where we rely on applications like VLC & some open source libraries to get it working to some extent. As LINUX begins to be adopted by the masses, highly skilled developers will take notice & contribute their time & energy into enhancing all aspects of it’s performance.

          I use both WINDOWS & LINUX variants in parallel, both have their pros & cons. The main reason I adopted LINUX was because I needed to become proficient with the LINUX command terminal. It was more cost effective to lease a LINUX based server than it was to lease a Windows server. It also offered better security by default which was always welcomed. As far as Windows, I’ve been using it consistently since Windows 95. They both have their place.

          Just be patient, performance issues will improve over time. Much of that falls upon the shoulders of companies like NVIDIA.

          • There is a big push right now for better GPU support in Linux because it’s seen as the next available market as Linux gains popularity. Things are changing quickly on this front from what I can tell.

    • Believe it or not, it’s strictly the differences in the two licenses: open vs. closed. UNIX is as much fun as Linux, unless you want to putz around with the code.

  5. this is exactly why linux needs to be regulated and taken off computers:

    this useless pretender of a wannabe “operating system” has been taking over these tax payer financed system run by airheads of so called “scientists” who spend their days babbling gibberish, wasting tax payers’ hard earned money, none of them has an honest job, doing this kind of dumb and useless computer races.
    Useless linux has not produced a single Billionaire, not even a single highly paid and honest to the boner Million $$ salary executive, you cannot even hide backdoors and bad encryption in it since every schmuck under the sun can go and see the code hiding it, and even remove it,, nor keep it open for your corporate exec friends’ companies advertising even if the retinent user clicks that “no” button.

    Our computers need to be protected from this greatest malware out there, which is a crime in itself, defeating honest to God government agencies’ best effort to protect us all from unnecessary freedom and the great insecurity of having to make decisions.

    you go, Windows and MacOS: I am rooting for you, your incessant effort in defending the freedom of using weak encryption, the effort of keeping it running in the best interest of the computer user, even when he should opt for different options just to switch them back to what is best for the luser and us all.

    the next fastest supercomputers will run Windows and MacOS, US editions, we will ask Mr Sessions to put an end to that malware that is used by drug dealers and child porn distributors, platform of choice for islamic terrorists and illegal immigrants who hide behind absolutely long uptimes, and unlawful strong encryption.
    Linux is also a job killer, it runs forever with no fixes needed: there are thousands, probably Millions of consultants and small consulting comanies who need the hours if fixing Windows, restoring corrupt file systems, or making a server that became slow run fast again.

    That menace to mankind needs to be eradicated from this planet. The War on Linux, the greatest plague mankind ever saw, has to begin now!

    • Government can’t rely on commercial based operating systems like Windows & Mac because Government must ensure it’s independence from corporate manipulation & control. That is why LINUX is embraced by numerous agencies ect .. around the world. It can’t afford to risk giving a 3rd party corporation internal access to sensitive materials & infrastructure.

      Since LINUX for the most part is opensource it can be modified & recompiled to meet the needs of various agencies without worrying about 3rd party licensing & outside control from companies with special interest.

      LINUX a job killer ?

      The funniest thing I’ve read in a while. LINUX is not a job killer. Tons of businesses have been launched online because of affordable web hosting services. There are at least 15+ new job markets created due to the wide spread of LINUX within the tech industry.

      Everything from script developers, help desk, server admins to web designers, small business startups & tons of freelance projects. Shoot even companies like SONY rely on FREEBSD LINUX for it’s PS4 console. Don’t forget the massive popularity of single board computers now on the rise. LINUX is the future!

      Microsoft knew this years ago & tried to develop & release their own LINUX version. I don’t know what happened with that project but recently they announced the inclusion of various LINUX OS tools for use within Windows 10. Downloadable via their Windows store.

      You have no idea what you are talking about. You are a clueless jellybean. lol

    • I would suspect whatever userland they are running is very custom or straight from buildroot. To me it wouldn’t make much sense tying yourself to an external entity for something so important. We use a custom buildroot distro for our embedded products at work.

  6. This was a fun read since the site I work at has two of the top 100 supercomputers, Cheyenne and Yellowstone. And out of college in 1997, I worked on the team at Intel that build the first Teraflops supercomputer ASCI-Red.


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