Linux clustering is widely regarded as the third stage of evolution in high-performance computing.
The dawn of high-performance computing came in the 1970s with the development of the Cray 1 and other custom-built supercomputers running proprietary operating systems. The early 1990s saw the use of semi-custom microprocessor supercomputers, running Unix on clustered RISC platforms. A milestone was reached in 1997, when the TOP500 list, a biannual listing of the world's most powerful supercomputers, first included cluster systems. Clusters are now in the top 30, and in the next TOP500 list,due out next month,clusters are expected to dominate the top 10.
Clusters running the open-source Linux OS offer a wide range of benefits over traditional supercomputers. Besides sporting a lower purchase price, Linux clusters are often less expensive to operate, said Dr. Mark Seager, assistant department head for terascale systems at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., which purchased a 1,152-server cluster from Sandy, Utah-based integrator Linux NetworX. Seager estimated that the cost to power and cool the cluster will be half that of a comparable supercomputer.