The speed and scale at which Linux operating system (OS) cornered the Supercomputing market is astonishing. In 1999, Linux had almost negligible market share among top 500 Supercomputers. Just 10 years later, Linux accounted for at least 80% share among the OS for top 500 supercomputers.
There are several reasons why Linux did so well in such a short span of time. First, super computers are a high stakes niche market, where the principal concern is security and reliability.
Linux is reputed to be among the most reliable open source OS in the information technology world and by virtue of its open source characteristic, its security can be independently managed by the maintenance teams of supercomputers.
Second, due to its free and open source characteristic, Linux has been globally adopted as the OS of choice for supercomputers in the US, China, India, and European countries such as Germany, Britain, France and Russia.
Third, unlike Windows OS where Microsoft has control over its source code, Linux is an open source OS and provides unique opportunities for customization so that modifications in applications based on OS are only limited by the users’ imaginations.
Fourth, the most recent examples of OS which have tried to gain market share other than Linux are International Business Machine’s AIX, which gained rapid prominence from 1994 to 2002, and Hewlett Packard’s version of UNIX OS, called HP-UX, which remained popular from 2000 to 2005. Both these OS withered away from the supercomputing market due to their proprietary nature and control over both the hardware and software aspects of the machines, thereby making it very expensive for clients to contain operating costs.
The only other class of OS which have gained market share during last 10 years have been classified or National Security-oriented OS. It remains to be seen whether Linux’s dominance in the very rarified niche market of supercomputing remains or if it will lose its almost monopoly position in coming years.