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Old 11-27-2008, 10:18 PM   #1
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Linux: World's Fastest Computers

There are fast computers, and then there are Linux fast computers. Every six months, the Top 500 organization announces "its ranked list of general purpose systems that are in common use for high end applications." In other words, supercomputers. And, as has been the case for years now, the fastest of the fast are Linux computers.

Microsoft is proud that a system running Windows HPC Server 2008 took 10th place... behind nine supercomputers running Linux. Even then, this was really more of a stunt than a demonstration that the HPC Server system is ready to compete with the big boys.

In the meantime, the real work is being done on the Linux computers. The number one supercomputer? Once more it's IBM's Linux-powered Roadrunner That's the same supercomputer, which this summer broke supercomputing's sound barrier: a sustained run of more than one petaflop per second or 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second. Beat that Microsoft!

Needless to say, all the Linux systems do have working parallel-processing languages, like GCC, PGI and PathScale. For now, and the foreseeable future, Linux will not only stay the fastest computers, they'll also be the most useful fast computers.

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Old 11-28-2008, 03:12 AM   #2
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Not counting the "mixed" systems (I can't easily find information on what the operating systems are), there are about 88 Linux systems per Winduhs system. Linux is running about 2,099,535 CPUs vs 54,144 on WinDuhs. Average CPUs per Linux install: 4782; for WinDuhs: 10,828.

Comparing the top winduhs machine (#10) with #9 (mix of CrayXT3 and XT4), the results in GFLOPs/CPU are comparable (compute power never quite scales linearly with #CPUs). Looking at #8 though (CrayXT4), the winduhs cluster is left for dead even as GFLOPs/CPU. That could be largely the class or generation of CPU though (AMD2.1GHz vs AMD1.9GHz)

So with Top500's LINPACK test it looks like a WinDuhs cluster is comparable to a Linux cluster. I've never administered a supercomputer; any super-admins out there have some idea why MS is just dwarfed in the big boys' club? Is it just the sheer cost of software per CPU or is it the annoying roar of 30k 'cores' rebooting?
Old 11-28-2008, 04:00 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by pinniped View Post
any super-admins out there have some idea why MS is just dwarfed in the big boys' club? Is it just the sheer cost of software per CPU or is it the annoying roar of 30k 'cores' rebooting?
Probably both.

In my own personal experience, Windows has always been a miserable pos. CIP: My "Win98" machine was much faster with Ubuntu 6.06. I am truly impressed that it is faster yet with 8.04. And stability? My system hasn't crashed since Sep 06 when I dumped Windows. Before, it was at least once per day.

Old 11-28-2008, 07:52 AM   #4
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I am far from a super-computer admin, but I do have one experience that supports your statements at a desktop level. I was running a tweaked XP Pro desktop running SETI. By tweaked I mean I had removed any unnecessary processes and services, had my page file on another drive, and had done everything at the OS level to make it run faster. It was taking around 20 hours to process 1 unit for SETI. I then installed Debian Sarge on that exact machine with no other changes, and it took around 3 - 5 hours to process SETI data units. I was floored at the difference.



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