Pair of Crays Advance Petascale Weather Forecasting in India

By Tiffany Trader

January 30, 2018

India is stepping up its supercomputing prowess with the launch of two Cray XC40 supercomputers this month. The larger 4 petaflops unit (“Pratyush”), located at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, will primarily be aimed at improving weather and climate models. The second 2.8 petaflops machine (“Mihir”), installed at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (NCMRWF) in Noida (near Delhi), mainly will be used to support daily operational forecasts.

Accepted in late 2017, Pratyush and Mihir (Indian names for the sun) represent 6.8 petaflops of peak capacity and an investment of Rs 450 crore (~$70 million USD) by the India government. The additional computational power, connected to 18 petabytes of Cray ClusterStor storage capacity, will enable the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) to produce weather and climate models at much higher resolutions, down to 3 km at regional scale and 12 km at global scale.

At a dedication for the IITM system held on Jan 8, Union minister for science and technology Harsh Vardhan upheld the new resource as the fourth fastest dedicated weather and climate science machine in the world, on par with machines owned by Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and South Korea. The system should put India back into the top quintile of world’s fastest computers as ranked by the Top500.

The minister said the new machines would provide cutting-edge forecast services to the citizens of India, to enable them to better understand and prepare for weather and climate conditions like monsoons, tsunamis, cyclones, earthquakes, lightning, flood, drought, and other extreme events. The computers will also be used for air quality control, water resource management and to support the fishing industry.

At the inauguration for NCMRWF cluster (held today, Jan. 30), Science Minister Vardhan said they intend to start block-level weather forecasting by June 2018, which will further advance critical alert systems in the nation.

“The ministry of earth sciences is doing historic work,” Vardhan told Hindustan Times. “The 2004 tsunami caught us unawares, but now India has a tsunami-warning system that can provide alerts and information to neighbouring countries as well. It is because of these early warnings that recent cyclones have not been as devastating as the ones (that hit the subcontinent) a decade ago.”

The supercomputer program in India began in the late 1980s, when the US stopped the export of a Cray supercomputer due to technology embargoes enacted by the U.S. and Europe. The relationship is back on track now.

Cray provided India with its current top number cruncher back in 2015. Located at the Indian Institute of Science’s Supercomputer Education and Research Centre (SERC), the XC40 ranks 228 on the latest Top500 list with 901.5 Linpack teraflops (1.2 petaflops Rpeak). Another Cray (an XC30) is installed at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research part of the Indian Lattice Gauge Theory Initiative.

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