India’s plans to be a world-class computing power are taking shape as the nation’s government lays out its strategy to build a vast supercomputing grid, comprised of more than 70 high-performance computing facilities. The project is expected to take seven years and comes with a price tag of $730 million (Rs. 4,500-crore). It calls for at least three petascale machines about 40-times faster than the country’s current record-holder, which puts the estimated output in the 25-30 petaflops range.
As reported in Hindustan Times, India’s finance ministry panel authorized the National Supercomputing Mission, which is being jointly managed by the department of science and technology and the department of electronics and information technology. However, the project still has to clear the Indian cabinet before becoming official policy.
Professor Rajat Moona, director general of the prestigious Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), characterized the mission as “the first step in our desire to have a supercomputer machine in the top 20 list.” He also spoke of the transformative impact it would have on research quality and quantity by facilitating the training of Indian scientists and the development of “home-grown applications” in medicine, agriculture and technology.
The seven-year mission will take place in two phases: the first three years will see the construction of 73 networked systems at research and education sites across the country. In the remaining four years, the focus will be on application development to make the most of this investment.
Key to the mission is raising India’s ranking as a supercomputing power. As such, the first machines built will be petascale supercomputers, the nation’s first, “boost[ing] high-performance computing for India several fold,” according to K VijayRaghavan, secretary, science and technology department.
This is not India’s first attempt at supercomputing glory. In 2007, the Eka supercomputer was the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world and the fastest in Asia. Presently, India has nine systems on the TOP500 list, two in the top 100.
India’s current top number-cruncher, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology’s iDataPlex, has a benchmarked performance of 719 teraflops, sufficient for a 52 ranking on the TOP500 list. The 388-teraflops (LINPACK) PARAM Yuva – II is the country’s second fastest. Unveiled by C-DAC in early 2013, the machine holds the 100th spot on the latest TOP500 list.
India would like to be competitive with the United States, the European Union, China and Japan when it comes to supercomputing prowess, but while those powers are jockeying to reach exascale, India is looking at fielding petascale machines in the same timeframe. However, there is a lot to be said for an approach that puts usability before rankings. The developing nation will surely find more value in a networked grid of high-performance computers than a monolithic stunt machine.