A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance compared to a general-purpose computer. Performance of a supercomputer is measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS). Supercomputers contain tens of thousands of processors and can perform billions and trillions of calculations or computations per second. Some supercomputers can perform up to a hundred quadrillion FLOPS. Since information moves quickly between processors in a supercomputer (compared to distributed computing systems) they are ideal for real-time applications.
Supercomputers are used for data-intensive and computation-heavy scientific and engineering purposes such as quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, oil and gas exploration, molecular modeling, physical simulations, aerodynamics, nuclear fusion research and cryptoanalysis. Early operating systems were custom made for each supercomputer to increase its speed. In recent years, supercomputer architecture has moved away from proprietary, in-house operating systems to Linux. Although most supercomputers use a Linux-based operating system, each manufacturer optimizes its own Linux derivative for peak hardware performance. In 2017, half of the world’s top 50 supercomputers used SUSE Enterprise Linux Server.
The largest, most powerful supercomputers are actually multiple computers that perform parallel processing. Today, many academic and scientific research firms, engineering companies and large enterprises that require massive processing power are using cloud computing instead of supercomputers. High performance computing (HPC) via the cloud is more affordable, scalable and faster to upgrade than on-premises supercomputers. Cloud-based HPC architectures can expand, adapt and shrink as business needs demand. SUSE Linux Enterprise High Performance Computing allows organizations to leverage their existing hardware for HPC computations and data-intensive operations.