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Thursday, February 02, 2012

India's petaFLOPS speed Supercomputer for Science & Technology research [Petascale Computing]

"It is, however, to be noted that CSIR reserves the right to decide on the use of these systems for whatever purpose deemed fit by the organization to serve the interests of the nation."

Making this fact amply clear, plans have been set in motion to develop a new Supercomputer which would have a speed upwards of 10 petaFLOPS1 for use in India. The current2 fastest Supercomputer in the world, Japan's K Computer clocks speeds of 10.5 petaFLOPS, while the fastest Indian Supercomputer today tops out at 0.1328 petaFLOPS or 0.220 petaFLOPS5, if purely theoretical peak, unbenchmarked speeds are considered. On completion, it may even become amongst the fastest Supercomputer in India at that time.

Once operational, this Supercomputer [or High Performance Computing (HPC) facility, though the term is not restricted to Supercomputers only] would primarily be used by Scientists & Researchers working in the numerous labs across India operating under the jurisdiction of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research [C.S.I.R]. The Centre of Mathematical Modeling & Computer Simulations [C-MMACS] lab of CSIR would be the nodal agency for this project.

The general outlines of C.S.I.R's Supercomputing facility - the Petascale High Performance Computing Environment [PHPCE], as described in its call for Expression Of Interest [EOI] published recently & upgradation of in-house computational capability available to each of its labs,

"Considering the scientific and geographic spread of CSIR as an organization, it is proposed to develop the PHPCE following the hub-and-spoke model riding on the National Knowledge Network (NKN) as the backbone. The pyramidal architecture thought of for CSIR's PHPCE envisages setting up an Apex system of ten petaFLOPS or more at CSIR C-MMACS, Bangalore to provide leadership computing; a few regional compute clusters of hundreds of teraFLOPS to provide capability computing and HPC systems of tens of teraFLOPS in all the Laboratories for capacity computing. In addition, it is proposed to set-up fifty petabytes or more of data storage, handling and visualization infrastructure at CSIR C-MMACS, Bangalore as a part of the Apex system, to be a true enabler of pursuit of data intensive fourth paradigm of science. It is also proposed to host suitable application software in diverse areas of interest to CSIR."

The role of C-MMACS, as co-developer of this Supercomputing facility would be somewhat different from that of other Indian research institutes that have developed Supercomputers, like Centre for Development of Advanced Computing [C-DAC], and to a great extent, Computational Research Laboratories Ltd in Pune. This has been clarified in its EOI call,

"However, co-development does not imply that CSIR will be involved in the development of the hardware."

C-MMACS, on behalf of the end-user, is to put forth its HPC requirements. Responders would then be expected to come up with solutions, & once approved, would then proceed to implement the Supercomputing system in consultation with C-MMACS. One of the biggest challenges faced in harnessing the maximum potentials of present-day Petascale HPC architecture are the software applications that can make full use of the quantum leap in parallelism, made available from Terascale to Petascale architecture. This calls for a complete redesign of the algorithms, libraries & applications. A highly challenging task, to say the least.

Anupam Adhya - Fastest Supercomputer of the Anupam series built by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, at 47 teraFLOPS

The quote at the top of the post, as mentioned in the call for EOI, is quite significant as far as India is concerned. The first Supercomputer developed in India by C-DAC6, the Param [Supreme, in Sanskrit] was a result of India being denied the right to purchase the, then, latest version of America's Cray-series of Supercomputer7, which was required to carry out more accurate weather forecasting. America also threatened India with sanctions if India used the Supercomputer, that India would buy from the United States for anything other than weather forecasting. The Americans feared that India would use the Supercomputer for furthering its Nuclear weapons & Defence programs. Thus, India, after being told what it could & could not use its own Supercomputer for, begun an indigenous program to develop the Supercomputing solution it had earlier sought from aboard.

Map depicting the Geographical locations of Supercomputers located in India

Proving naysayers & detractors wrong, and thumbing the Americans in their nose, India successfully developed its own Supercomputer, a prototype of which was displayed to the world & successfully benchmarked at an exhibition of Supercomputers in 1990 in Zurich, just 2 years after the program was initiated. Later, in 1991, when the actual system was finally unveiled, the headlines in the American newspaper, the Washington Post4 read, "Angry India Does IT", capturing the anger & triumphalism felt by India's policy-makers & scientists at that time. With this feat, India became only the third country in the world to develop its own Supercomputer, after Japan & the United States itself. Since then India, through the tireless, pioneering efforts of C-DAC & other institutes has developed more advanced & faster variants of the Param & other series of Supercomputers, which has also been exported to other countries, including Canada, Germany, Singapore, Russia. C-DAC is currently working on developing a Petascale HPC solution, & aims to attain this speed this year.


In light of the increasing demands of computing power for development & research activities, India recently announced the allocation of Rs. 5000 Crores INR [~$1 Billion USD] for conducting research to develop an Exascale Supercomputing facility capable of reaching speeds of 132.8 exaFLOPS,by 2017. No other projects have been announced anywhere in the world that aims to attain speeds higher than what this joint venture between the Indian Institute of Science [IISc] & the Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO] have sought to reach. Upon successful completion, therefore, it could become the fastest Supercomputer in the world at that time. With the IISc taking the lead in the project, making its maiden foray into development of such a facility, it would be interesting to see what role C-DAC, whose genesis lay in building High Performance Computing infrastructures, would play in this development program. Promising & interesting times ahead.


Also: Top Computer Science Research Institutions in India [Institute ranking]

1 - Likely, Raw Computational Speed

2 - February 01, 2012

3 - The Second fastest Supercomputer in India is used by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, located in Pune

4 - some say the Wall Street Journal. Both equally popular.

5 - Top Supercomputers-India. The speeds are, as nomenclature, represented as 132.8 teraFLOPS & 220 teraFLOPS respectively

6 - In fact C-DAC had been been setup only to fulfill India's goals of building its own Supercomputer. Upon signing the High Technology Accord between India & U.S.A, the then Prime Minister of India, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was, it is said, subjected to humiliation by the Americans when he asked to purchase the Cray-series of Supercomputer, in lines with the agreements of the accord.

7 - An older, slower version was being offered for sale, instead