Linux drives the world's fastest computer

by Mark Rais, senior editor

Roadrunner breaks a modest threshold of 1,000 trillion calculations per second on Monday -- but unfortuntely few of the news sources indicate what drives this hardware.

As news spreads of the incredible new threshold performed by IBM's Roadrunner supercomputer (actually over 3,456 tri-blade servers), it seems many of the news stories are missing a key ingredient.

The Roadrunner supercomputer broke through one of the absolute world records for computer processing power when it performed one Petaflop or 1,000 trillion calculations per second. Not a trifling achievement considering that just a decade ago reaching the billion mark was a record.

But perhaps most notable, and prominently absent from news stories and the AP wire reviews is the question of what runs this powerful hardware. Few seem to be taking a good hard look at the key ingredient that drives the computing capabilities of such a behemoth as this $100 million computer system.

Being that I am a strong Linux and Open Source proponent, I consider it a serious error of omission that news stories like the one on CNN, miss the fact that Linux is the underlying operating system.

From the IBM website, details regarding the supercomputer are clearly presented including: "The machine is to be built entirely from commercially available hardware and based on the Linux operating system."

Notice that Linux multiplatform capabilities are utilized as the hardware includes: IBM System x 3755 servers based on AMD Opteron technology and IBM BladeCenter H systems along with the unique Cell B.E. technology (same chips used to drive Sony's PlayStation 3).

At the very least, Roadrunner reaching the Petaflop mark is an overt example of the value of Linux for scaling and performance. Linux is indeed key to driving that unique and high performance hardware architecture. You can read more details regarding this achievement in articles such as: this one.

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