Sunday, July 23, 2017

Govt eyes indigenous supercomputers under 3-phase project


PUNE: As part of the Modi government's 'Make in India' initiative, supercomputers will be manufactured in India under a three-phase programme, officials said. In the initial two phases of the National Supercomputers Mission, the focus will be on designing and manufacturing subsystems such as high-speed Internet switches and compute nodes indigenously. The Rs 4,500-crore project was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in March last year. 

A Request for Proposal (RPF) for the project is in its final stages and is being executed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, a research and development institution under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The NSM envisages nearly 50 supercomputers in three phases. The government has plans to make these high-precision computing machines available for scientific researches across the country. Milind Kulkarni, a senior scientist with the Ministry of Science and Technology who is over-looking the project, said the plan is to "have six supercomputers in the first phase". 

In the first phase, three supercomputers will be imported. System assemblies for the remaining three will be manufactured abroad, but assembled in India. C-DAC will responsible for the overall system design. Two supercomputers will have a peak operational capacity of two petaflops and the rest will be of 500 teraflops. Floating point operations per second (FLOPS) is the standard unit to measure computational power. 

A petaflop can be expressed as a thousand trillion floating point operations per second. A teraflop is equal to one million million floating-point operations per second. The six supercomputers will be placed at four IITs - Banaras Hindu University, Kanpur, Kharagpur and Hyderabad - Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, and Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. 

"The goal is to have them by the end of this year," Ashutosh Sharma, secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology said. In the second phase, major parts like high-speed Internet switches, compute nodes and network systems will be manufactured in India.  Kulkarni said that almost the entire system will be built in India in the third phase. 

India started its own supercomputing mission in 1988 under which the first series of Param supercomputers were manufactured. The mission lasted 10 years and since 2000, there has been no major push for the project. Currently, countries such as the US, Japan, China and the European Union (EU) make up a major share of the top supercomputing machines in the world. The NSM will enable India to leapfrog to the league of world-class computing power nations. 

There are nearly 25 supercomputers in India in different institutes. These are used for varied purposes, including to deduce complex phenomena like weather, climate change, nuclear reactions etc.


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