Additional details on India’s plans to stand up an indigenous supercomputer came to light earlier this week. As reported in the Indian press, the Rs 4,500-crore (~$675 million) supercomputing project, approved by the Indian government in March 2015, is preparing to install six machines, ranging from 500 teraflops to 2 petaflops, by year end. Three of these will be completely foreign-sourced and three will begin incorporating Indian design elements in preparation for a fully made-in-India supercomputer.
Under the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi and within the auspices of the “Make in India” initiative, at least fifty new supercomputers will be built over three phases of a seven-year program. This is all part of India’s National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) to create a grid of supercomputers connecting academic and research institutions across the country. Rajat Moona, director-general of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), has said that at least 50 percent of the supercomputers will be Indian-made.
According to Milind Kulkarni, a senior scientist with the ministry of science and technology cited by Hindustan Times, six supercomputers will be built in the first phase with three of these to be foreign built. Moving toward India’s goal of indigenous supercomputing, the remaining three will be manufactured abroad, but assembled in India with C-DAC handling the overall system design.
The six supercomputers are destined for four technology institutes (Banaras Hindu University, Kanpur, Kharagpur and Hyderabad) as well as the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru. Two of the systems are on track for a peak computing capacity of two petaflops with the remainder being smaller machines of approximately 500 teraflops.
During the first two phases of the National Supercomputing Mission, India will concentrate its efforts on designing and manufacturing subsystems such as high-speed switches and compute nodes. The goal of the third phase will be to deploy a machine that is completely Indian-made or very close to it.
India’s no stranger to homegrown supercomputing. In 1991, C-DAC stood up India’s first indigenous supercomputer, the PARAM 8000. Much like China’s recent indigenous HPC surge, the PARAM program for Indian-made supercomputers was created in the face of a technology embargo enacted by the United States. The first PARAM system was benchmarked at 5 Gflops, making it one of the fastest systems in the world at the time.
India’s supercomputing prowess has waxed and waned in the following decades. The nation achieved its highest Top500 ranking (#4) with “Eka” in 2007 and reached its highest system share in 2013 with twelve machines. But as of the latest list installment (June 2017), this count had fallen to four. The most performant of these, at #165, is the 901-teraflops Cray XC40, installed at the at the Supercomputing Education and Research Center (SERC) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore.