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September 3, 2013

India Preps for Ubiquitous HPC

Tiffany Trader

Home to such renowned supercomputing resources as the Computational Research Laboratories’ Eka – ranked the world’s fourth-largest in 2007 – and C-DAC’s Param Yuva II – ranked 69th on the latest TOP500 list – India is among the global supercomputing leaders. The country’s TOP500 prowess has slid a bit since Eka’s debut, but there’s more to HPC than big iron.

Once largely relegated to government and academic settings, HPC is now equally at home in industry, driven in part by the big data explosion. Enterprises small and large are beginning to leverage the benefits of high-performance computing. HPC is reaching into new markets to boost competitiveness around the world, and India is gearing up for the shift.

Intel’s Rajeeb Hazra describes this transformation in a recent interview with Hindu Business Line. Hazra who serves as general manager for the technical computing segment in the Datacenter and Connected Systems Group at Intel Corporation, says that India – by nature of its expertise and talent pool – is poised to play a pivotal role in the supercomputing space.

Currently, 11 of the TOP500 systems are from India – up from 8 systems on the June 2012 list. Hazra makes the point that the highest echelon of HPC move so fast that a system can go from the top five to obsolete in a matter of years. But he believes that “India’s best days in high performance computing (HPC) are around the corner, given the tremendous industrial base the country has.”

Hazra is confident that the government can have a tremendous positive impact. “We believe that governments can play a key role in making HPC ubiquitous for the masses,” he says. “Our objectives are fairly simple when we call upon the government folks. We provide them insights from our experience in addition to keeping them advised on what is coming next from the perspective of capabilities and price points. While governments can fund the development of supercomputers, like it happens in the US and China, it is just as important for them to deploy it for the masses by making it a national infrastructure.”

India’s supercomputing vision is multi-faceted with an emphasis on applications, standards, infrastructure, and skills development. An exascale machine features prominently in the country’s ambitions. Exascale R&D will focus on architecture, new software and applications and power-optimization techniques. The tentative plan is to field a 20 petaflop machine by 2016.

As for speculation that the Indian government wants to produce the world’s fastest supercomputer by 2017, Hazra is circumspect. He maintains that such a feat is always possible with sufficient focus and funding, but he questions whether this single-minded effort is appropriate, whether it is the best use of funding dollars.

“In my view, the right question for India to ask is what will we do that will be unique with the world’s fastest supercomputer. A great deal of planning needs to happen for ensuring the presence of scalable applications (development focused) that will justify the huge investments in supercomputing,” remarks Hazra.

“We all know that high performance computing is an expensive affair. And you really need in a world market for getting a return on those investments. You need scale and if you cannot stay at the top of the heap, it is not a profitable business for too long. I hope that the way the problem is looked at in India, is which investments will have long term capability to uplift the people.”

In the video below, Dr. GV Ramaraju presents India’s Supercomputing Vision – Key Technical Challenges. Ramaraju lays out the requirements that must be met in order to build state-of-art, world-class supercomputers.

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