Archive for June, 2009

The top 10 supercomputers in the world run Linux

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 | hardware, linux | No Comments

Pingdom (a Swedish uptime monitoring company) took the results of the latest list (Top500 is a site that publishes a list, usually twice a year, of the top-performing supercomputers in the world where the performance is ranked against the LINPACK benchmark) and published a study of what operating systems the top 20 supercomputers in world are running. It turns out that 19 of the top 20 are running some form of Linux (with the top 10 all running Linux).

While most of you reading this probably don’t plan on purchasing a supercomputer on the scale of Roadrunner or Jaguar in the near future (if you do, we’d love to assist you in the process) our own experience with deploying smaller HPC clusters for organisations is that Linux is equally suitable for smaller clusters for a variety of reasons including the cost of deployment, the flexibility of Linux as a server OS, the wide range of HPC software that is developed on or targetted at the Linux operating system and the excellent support provided by the Linux community for new hardware (see the recent announcement of Linux being the first operating to support USB 3.0 devices as a good example).

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Marine exploration using Linux

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 | hardware, linux | No Comments

It is always interesting to see the different environments and ways in which Linux is used in the real world. I was recently onsite with the Irish Marine Institute to install a new Linux server for them. The server configuration itself is pretty standard – using the latest stable CentOS 4.x on a new HP ProLiant server.

What is interesting about this particular piece of work is the equipment that the Linux server is being used to control. The Marine Institute is Ireland’s national agency for marine research, technology and innovation. As part of their work they are involved in a climate change program which requires them to measure data including the temperature, salinity, chlorophyll and oxygen levels of the ocean. Using this data they can model the behaviour of the ocean and understand its role in climate change in Ireland.

As well as using traditional methods for recording this data such as sensors on buoys and ship surveys – the Marine Institute is deploying an unmanned remote controlled vehicle which includes a range of sensors. The remote controlled vehicle or glider can be programmed to follow a specific course, taking measurements at various depths as it travels and sending them back to base periodically. Obviously, this gives far more flexibility than data from a static buoy and costs far less to run than a research vessel.

Which brings us back to the Linux install. The Linux server will operate as the controller for this remote glider – a Slocum electric glider developed by Webb Research. Webb provide software to talk to the glider any time it is on the surface using an Iridium satellite modem. The software allows data to be retrieved from the glider and new routes to be sent to it.

The initial installation went well – after a few teething problems. The glider, which is currently out of the water (having successfully completed initial trials), was powered on and we immediately starting seeing communications between the server and the glider. Initial tests look good and we hope to hear of the Marine Institute successfully deploying this technology in the near future. When in operation, the glider can travel distances of over 1000km and to depths of 1000m.

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