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Top supercomputing sites in India

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India is a supercomputing minnow. The top 500 supercomputing installations in the world feature only one Indian site. The Indian list, put together by SERC features:

  1. Computational Research Laboratories Ltd, Pune: HP Cluster Platform delivering sustained performance of 132.80 Tera flops. World ranking: number 58
  2. Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune: PARAMcluster delivering sustained performance of 38.1 Teraflops
  3. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai: IBM BlueGene/P delivering sustained performance of 23.25 Teraflops
  4. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore: IBM BlueGene/L delivering sustained performance of 17.81 Teraflops
  5. National Centre For Medium Range Weather Forecasting, Noida: IBM cluster delivering sustained performance of 15.30 Teraflops

BS carried a report on the above list:

The Supercomputer Education and Research Centre has been compiling and publishing this list in India twice a year since December 2008 in June and December.

This year, there were a total of 16 entries with a minimum performance criterion over 3.11 TFlops (one trillion floating point operations in a single second). The combined supercomputer performance featured on the SERC list, and hence in India, is now around 308 TFlops. Bangalore leads the list in the number of supercomputers, followed by Chennai.

The speed of a supercomputer is measured in FLoating Point Operations Per Second, or FLOPS, commonly used with an SI prefix such as tera, combined into the shorthand “TFLOPS” (pronounced teraflops), or peta-, combined into the shorthand “PFLOPS” (one quadrillion FLOPS, pronounced petaflops).

Supercomputers are typically used for highly calculation-intensive tasks such as problems involving quantum physics, weather forecasting, climate research, molecular modeling such as computing the structures and properties of chemical compounds, biological macromolecules, polymers, and crystals, and physical simulations such as simulation of airplanes in wind tunnels, simulation of the detonation of nuclear weapons, and research into nuclear fusion.

I understand that the government is concerned about the “supercomputing gap” and is encouraging huge amounts of installed capacity. In my opinion this is a wasted resource unless it arises out of research compulsions, ie, when research grows to a point that existing high-end computing is no longer sufficient and supercomputing is needed. I wonder how many of India’s top supercomputing sites satisfy this criterion.

Here is my prediction. Supercomputing will remain small in India until two factors are taken care of: education and power.

Indian science courses de-emphasize computation. There is hardly any emphasis on problems, and in the rare cases where problem-solving is a part of a course, the emphasis is on mathematical methods of the 19th century (so-called analytical methods). The road to supercomputing is through ordinary computing: a research organization which does not have a hundred 1 Gigaflops installations, and around ten 1 Teraflops installations, will not organically produce research which requires supercomputing.

The other requirement for supercomputing is reliable electrical power supply: the capital expense on a supercomputer is not justified unless it is up 100% of the time. The world’s fastest computing facility delivers 1 Teraflop for 1.2 Kilowatts of power. The 201st is less efficient with power, delivering a Teraflop for 5.38 Kilowatts, the 500th delivers a Teraflop for 5.8 Kilowatts. Entry-level supercomputing is more power hungry than the top. Until this changes, one is unlikely to see a mushrooming of supercomputing installations across the country: given India’s rapidly deteriorating power situation.


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

June 29, 2011 at 5:44 am

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