However powerful your computer is, it has nothing to do with what is known as a “supercomputer.” Supercomputers are very high-level machines (more than 100 petaFLOPS power) used especially in the field of science and research, such as for quantum mechanics, calculating the weather forecast, climate research, molecular modeling and physical simulations. Many of these tasks are carried out thanks to Artificial Intelligence and Neural Networks processed within these systems. However, all that power would be of no use if it weren’t for the complex operating systems that use this equipment.
If an engineer came up with the idea of installing Windows on a supercomputer, he would probably not go back to computer science. Supercomputers are computers created for specific purposes, and therefore, requires a customized operating system and optimized for that purpose.
For a long time, these high-level teams have been using Unix-based systems. However, we remember that Unix is closed source, has licenses and adapting it is very expensive. Linux, on the other hand, is a free, open source system with a great capacity to customize.
Therefore, since 2018, 100% of the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world use Linux. Now, which Linux is the most popular on these computers? Of course, they will not have a graphical interface as we are used to. Its use is remote, through ultra-secure connections, and by terminal.
The most popular Linux in supercomputers
The operating systems used in these machines are not systems that we will use in our day to day. These have been modified and altered to optimize their operation for certain tasks and under certain conditions.
Summit, for example, is the most powerful super-computer that we can find worldwide. This computer runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) , without special modifications. Of course, it has advanced compilers and advanced mathematical libraries to be able to carry out its work as efficiently as possible. Sierra is the second most powerful supercomputer. And this also uses Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).
Third we meet Sunway TaihuLight . This supercomputer is physically located in China, and to operate it uses its own operating system called ” Sunway RaiseOS 2.0.5 “. Fourth is the Tianhe-2A , also located in China. And, curiously, as an operating system uses Kylin Linux, one of the flavors of Ubuntu created in China for users in that country.
Piz Daint ranks fifth as the most powerful super-computer. This is physically located in Switzerland and as an operating system uses Cray Linux Environment, better known as UNICOS , a UNIX type operating system that also included numerous BSD functions. Trinity, the sixth most powerful super-computer, is located in the United States and also uses this same operating system. Titan, the ninth in the list, also from the United States, also uses Cray as SO.
AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure ranks seventh in the list of the world’s most powerful equipment. This is located in Japan, and its operating system does not know much, except that it is based on Linux. The same goes for Sequoia, in the United States, which occupies the tenth place and the only thing that is known about this system is that it uses Linux, but it is not known which or what modifications it has.
Finally, SuperMUC-NG , which ranks eighth and belongs to Germany, uses SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP3 as its operating system .
Other operating systems for supercomputers
As we see, these computers do not use the same systems that we use in our day to day. The truth is that it would be madness and an expense of resources totally unacceptable to any nation. However, in addition to the operating systems we have just seen (the most used by the 10 most powerful supercomputers) there are also other systems.
These are used in some of the 500 most powerful systems in the world, according to the needs and purpose of each super-computer:
- Catamount: Linux-based operating system based on the beginnings of SUNMOS, created in 1991.
- Chippewa Operating System : also known as COS, was used in Control Data Corporation systems. Discontinued.
- CNK: the IBM super-computers node. It is based on Linux.
- Cray Time Sharing System : known as CTTS.
- INK: also used by IBM, I / O Node Kernel is based on Linux.
- Lightweight Kernel : it is not an operating system as such, it is a Linux kernel designed for very powerful computers.
- Livermore Time Sharing System : successor of Chippewa, was also used in Control Data Corporation equipment.
- NLTSS: New Livermore Time Sharing System is the successor to Livermore Time Sharing System.
- SUNMOS: Sandia / UNM Operating System, a very light system to dedicate the rest of the equipment’s potential to operations.
- SUPER-UX : a version of Unix used in SX supercomputers. Its last release was 5 years ago, and it still has support.
If we want to consult the list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, here we have the list with the top 500 of the most powerful equipment.