India Greenlights $730 Million Supercomputing Grid

By Tiffany Trader

March 26, 2015

The Indian government has approved a seven-year supercomputing program worth $730 million (Rs. 4,500-crore) intended to restore the nation’s status as a world-class computing power.

The prime mandate of the National Supercomputing Mission, first revealed last October, is the construction of a vast supercomputing grid connecting academic and R&D institutions and select departments and ministries. The National Supercomputing grid will be comprised of more than 70 geographically-distributed high-performance computing centers linked over a high-speed network, the National Knowledge Network (NKN).

According to an official press statement from India’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, the mission involves both capacity and capability machines. Earlier reports stated that the first order of business would be raising India’s supercomputing ranking by standing up three petascale supercomputers, some 40-times faster than the country’s current fastest.

Once title-holder to the world’s fourth-fastest supercomputer (“Eka”) in 2007, India has not kept up its supercomputing investment. Its current top system, a 719-teraflops IBM/Lenovo iDataPlex installed at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, has slid from 36th to 71st position since it making its TOP500 debut in 2013. And the nation’s second-fastest number-cruncher, the 388-teraflops PARAM Yuva II, has gone from 131 to 69 in the same timeframe.

The nation’s first petascale systems would “boost high-performance computing for India several fold,” according to K VijayRaghavan, secretary, science and technology department. The large-scale cyberinfrastructure will support applications of national relevance, including grand challenge problems, advanced research and development and home-grown Indian technologies.

“The Mission implementation would bring supercomputing within the reach of the large Scientific & Technology community in the country,” remarked the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. “Currently, in the top Supercomputing machines in the world, a major share is taken from advanced countries such as the US, Japan, China and the European Union (EU). The mission envisages India to be in the select league of such nations. To provide continuity in maintaining a lead in supercomputing, the Mission also includes advanced R&D. This will create requisite expertise to build state-of-the-art next generation supercomputing. The Mission supports the government’s vision of “Digital India” and “Make in India” initiatives.”

The program will be jointly managed by the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Electronics and Information Technology and implemented through two of India’s primary science organizations: the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.

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