The new TOP500 list, which shows the 500 most powerful computer units in the entire world, shows some form of the Linux kernel powering every single machine that packs that kind of processing ability. Linux has already been the force behind most of the world’s most powerful computers for years, so this isn’t a surprising fact.
What’s more surprising is how long it’s taken to get to this point since the kernel was only finally able to shove all other operating systems off the list back in November.
Some commentators have been calling this the year of the Linux supercomputer. While people have been talking about a so-called year of the Linux desktop for so long it’s become something of a joke in the open-source community, it does seem that there isn’t any other competition when it comes to truly powerful machines.
IBM AIX was hanging on for many years, and went toe-to-toe with Linux at one point. The popular closed-source Unix server environment continued to receive updates for quite some time. The most recent release was in 2015 and IBM still does develop for it, though it seems that Linux has finally pushed AIX out of the spotlight for now.
Those who pay close attention to big iron computing have indicated that there’s going to be some comeback on AIX’s behalf. It’s one of only six commercial operating that are certified by the Open Group, and it still receives quite a bit of attention from specialist developers.
In spite of Linux taking over as an operating system environment on the list, Big Blue still seems to be going strong. IBM’s Summit OCLF-4 machine at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the fastest supercomputer in the entire world, which is due in part to the way that it uses GPU chips instead of deriving it’s mathematical power merely from the 9,216 POWER9 22-core CPUs it uses.
A larger percentage of supercomputers than ever before relies on this kind of GPU re-purposing, which echoes some of the existing trends that have been happening in the cryptocurrency and gaming world.
It also reflects recent news that some semiconductor manufacturers are beginning to transition more toward making GPUs than anything else.