Conference paper

Designing a highly-scalable operating system: The Blue Gene/L story

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Blue Gene/L is currently the world's fastest and most scalable supercomputer. It has demonstrated essentially linear scaling all the way to 131,072 processors in several benchmarks and real applications. The operating systems for the compute and I/O nodes of Blue Gene/L, are among the components responsible for that scalability. Compute nodes are dedicated to running application processes, whereas I/O nodes are dedicated to performing system functions. The operating systems adopted for each of these nodes reflect this separation of function. Compute nodes run a lightweight operating system called the compute node kernel. I/O nodes run a port of the Linux operating system. This paper discusses the architecture and design of this solution for Blue Gene/L in the context of the hardware characteristics that led to the design decisions. It also explains and demonstrates how those decisions are instrumental in achieving the performance and scalability for which Blue Gene/L is famous. © 2006 IEEE.