Once upon a time, the Netcraft Web server market share was reported upon eagerly every month for the fact that it showed open source soundly trouncing its proprietary rivals. We don't hear much about that survey these days – not because things have changed, but for that very reason: it's now just become a boring fact of life that Apache has always been the top Web server, still is, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. I think we're fast approaching that situation with the top500 supercomputing table.
I wrote about this six months ago, noting that Linux did rather well, with 91% of the top 500 machines in the world running some form of it. It's time for an update, and I'm afraid it is indeed rather boring: Linux now holds 91.8% of that sector.
Happily, there are still a couple of other points of note. First and foremost, as the world and their canine has been commenting, is the fact that the list is now headed by a Chinese supercomputer (still running Linux, of course): if this surprises you, then you really haven't been paying attention.
The Tsubame team ran their Top 500 benchmarking tests on both Linux and Windows, and the difference in performance was less than 5% but Linux did come out on top, Hilf says. Hilf attributes Linux's slim victory to the Tokyo researchers running the Linux tests on a slightly larger number of nodes.
The Tokyo Institute could submit only one test to the Top 500 group, and obviously chose the faster, Linux-based one, Hilf says. Tsubame hit speeds of nearly 1.2 petaflops, good for fourth place in the world. Only seven supercomputers broke a petaflop, so Microsoft could have entered the top ten or perhaps even the top five if Tsubame submitted the Windows run.
Of course, this makes Microsoft's previous taunts that "Linux does not scale" even more delicious. Another comment of Hilf's in the same article is simply bizarre:
Despite losing a top spot to Linux, Microsoft is pleased by the results, or at least appears to be publicly. Supercomputing capabilities have historically been limited to large universities, government agencies and giant research-oriented private businesses, but Microsoft believes Windows HPC Server can expand the market to a much wider range of business customers and fill Microsoft's coffers in the process.
Instead of buying what Hilf calls an "exotic" IBM Blue Gene system or a Cray supercomputer, Windows administrators who need some basic HPC functionality can plunk down $925 for a Windows HPC Server license.
Or they could just run Linux, pay nothing, and get better performance....