The Top Three Reasons Linux is Running the World’s Supercomputers

September 13, 2022

Every piece of hardware – from home desktop computers to smartphones, to rack servers, to wind turbines – is controlled by some sort of operating system. While you may be familiar with Windows or iOS, Linux – a free, open-source operating system – is one of the most used operating systems. This is especially true when talking about any device besides a personal computer. According to TrueList, 96.3% of the top one million web servers are running Linux; the world’s top 500 fastest supercomputers all run on Linux; Android – which originates from Linux – powers around 85% of all smartphones. 

What is Linux?

Linux is an open-source operating system. An operating system is the base layer of software on a device that manages hardware resources and provides an environment where applications can run. Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS are examples of operating systems. Essentially, Linux – and operating systems in general – facilitate interactions between hardware and software components of a computer system.

The devices that we interact with the most – smartphones, personal computers, and tablets to name a few – generally utilize some combination of Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, and Linux. These operating systems are great for standard, personal/mobile computing. These operating systems are built for the mass market, as such, they tend to be quite bulky with very high resource requirements. Windows, MacOS, and to a lesser extent Android and iOS, continue to add more and more functionality with each release. This is great for personal computing, but these operating systems can be overkill for, say, an embedded computer that has one function. It is in these more narrowly focused computing systems that Linux shines, for a few specific reasons. 

Linux is Open Source

Perhaps the most important aspect of Linux is its open-source GNU General Public License. Essentially, the licensing allows for the unlimited modification and distribution of the Linux operating system. While this does mean that Linux is free to download, the “open-source” licensing means much more. 

Over the years, the open-source nature of Linux has allowed thousands of programmers to collaborate on software projects of all sizes in order to offset the cost of development. Quite often, the source code has been reviewed by literally thousands of programmers, vastly improving it. No other operating system has ever been subjected to this level of review. 

At the same time, the operating system can be tailored and refined in such a way as to meet specific standards or change features. This is not possible with commercial operating systems designed to service a large and generalized user base. A Linux system can be fully customized to address an enterprise’s specific business or operational goals.

Linux Offers Security & Stability

The method in which permissions are handled in Linux is a major component in the operating system’s security. Programs cannot make changes to the system settings and configuration unless the user is logged in as the root (admin) user. Most users do not log in as the root, and as a result, they cannot do much damage to the system, except to their own files and programs, since downloaded files or malware will have limited privileges.

The architecture of a Linux system also aids the overall stability of the operating system. Much like the tiered permission structure, the overall file structure allows parts of the system to be configured or brought down in the event of an issue without impacting the entire instance.

When configured properly, a Linux system will generally run until its hardware fails or it is shut down, and up-times of more than a year are not uncommon.

Linux is Flexible & Scalable

Linux, as noted above, is much more lightweight than other operating systems. As a result, Linux can be configured to run on just about any hardware imaginable – everything from the fastest supercomputers in the world to a smartwatch. Because of this flexibility, Linux is one of the most used operating systems for embedded devices – small-form-factor computers that power specific tasks.

Embedded Linux systems are infinitely scalable and can run on everything from the smallest boards and flash storage to the most powerful cloud servers. This means easier and more rapid upgrades to firmware and embedded systems and improved compatibility across devices, workstations, and servers. Linux provides a highly modular building block approach to developing a custom embedded system. This provides greater flexibility in design possibilities.

Sealevel’s Comprehensive Software Solutions for Linux

Sealevel’s hardware is matched only by our software solutions, engineered in-house by our team of developers. Installation and operation of devices is simplified through the use of our operating system-specific software. Sealevel software for Linux includes: