The 2020-21 is an important year for India’s National Supercomputing Mission (NSM).
- About Supercomputer
- A supercomputer is a jacked-up version of a personal computer used for tasks deemed too complicated for a normal PC – like quantum mechanics etc.
- Today’s fastest supercomputer, SUMMIT by IBM, USA, uses 36,000 on-board processors and can perform about 200 quadrillion calculations per second. What a normal computer will do in 30 years, the SUMMIT can do in an hour.
- About the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM):
- The aim was to install a grid of 73 supercomputers at academic and research institutions across the country, working on a wide range of applications, from weather forecasting to disaster management.
- These supercomputers will also be networked on the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN).
- The NKN is another programme of the government which connects academic institutions and R&D labs over a high speed network.
- A supercomputer's 60 percent of the time will be used by the institute which created it, while the rest will be available to anyone in the country through a common grid.
- The Mission would be steered jointly by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) at an estimated cost of Rs.4500 crore over a period of seven years.
- It is implemented by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru. The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) is evaluating the technical bids by firms.
- It awarded French technology firm Atos a ₹4,500-crore contract to build 70 supercomputers under the National Supercomputing Mission.
- The targets of the mission:
- Three systems with greater than or equal to 3 Peta Flops (PF) in academic and research institutions of National importance across the country by 2022.
- This network of Supercomputers envisaging a total of 15-20 PF was approved in 2015 and was later revised to a total of 45 PF (45000 TFs).
- In the initial phase, while some components would be imported, some, like server-board assemblies, cooling solutions, power supply and storage systems would be manufactured in India with an aim to make 50% of the components locally over time.
- In the next phase, the supercomputers will not only be manufactured but also be designed by CDAC in India, allowing the country to be self-reliant in the technology
- The Mission also includes development of highly professional High Performance Computing (HPC) aware human resource for meeting challenges of development of applications.
- Significance of the mission: High-performance computing is important if India wants to make significant progress in areas like weather forecasting, drug discovery, astrophysics and bioinformatics.
- Supercomputers built under the mission
- The first supercomputer assembled indigenously, called Param Shivay, was installed in IIT (BHU).
- Similar systems Param Shakti and Param Brahma were installed at IIT-Kharagpur and IISER, Pune.
- Application areas of the mission:
- Climate Modelling
- Weather Prediction
- Aerospace Engineering including CFD, CSM, CEM
- Computational Biology
- Molecular Dynamics
- Atomic Energy Simulations
- National Security/ Defence Applications
- Seismic Analysis
- Disaster Simulations and Management
- Computational Chemistry
- Computational Material Science and Nanomaterials
- Discoveries beyond Earth (Astrophysics)
- Large Complex Systems Simulations and Cyber Physical Systems
- Big Data Analytics
- Information repositories/ Government Information Systems
- Future plans: To install three more supercomputers by April 2020, one each at IIT-Kanpur, JN Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru, and IIT-Hyderabad.
- This will ramp up the supercomputing facility to 6 PF.
- 11 new systems are likely to be set up in different IITs, NITs, National Labs, and IISERs across India by the end of 2020 , which will have many subsystems manufactured and microprocessors designed in India which will bring in a cumulative capacity of 10.4 petaflops.
- For the North-East region of the country, 8 systems with a total Compute Power of 16 PF are being commissioned.
- 5 indigenously designed systems with three 3 PF computing power will be installed at IIT-Mumbai, IIT-Chennai and Inter-University Accelerator Centre (IUAC) at Delhi with NKN as its backbone.
- It also includes an indigenously build 20 PF system at C-DAC, Pune, and a 100 PF Artificial Intelligence supercomputing system.
- One midlevel 650 TFs system is also to be installed at C-DAC Bengaluru to provide consultancy to Start-ups, SSIs & MSMEs.
What is TeraFlop?
- Unlike gigahertz (GHz), which measures a processor's clock speed, TFLOP is a direct mathematical measurement of a computer's performance.
- Specifically, a teraflop refers to the capability of a processor to calculate one trillion floating-point operations per second.
- In the C language, a floating-point operation is any mathematical operation (such as +, -, *, /) or assignment that involves floating-point numbers (as opposed to binary integer operations).
- Floating-point numbers have decimal points in them.
- E.g. the number 2.0 is a floating-point number because it has a decimal in it. The number 2 (without a decimal point) is a binary integer.
- A floating-point system can be used to represent, with a fixed number of digits, numbers of different orders of magnitude: e.g. the distance between galaxies or the diameter of an atomic nucleus can be expressed with the same unit of length.
- Delays: Progress has been delayed by 3 years because there is more than one government department involved.
- Funding: Only a portion of the Rs 4,500 crore allocated towards the project has been released so far and there are concerns that the delay could result in costs rising further.
- Lack of human resource: CDAC was set up with a mission to focus on supercomputing, but over the years it has been asked to do too many other things, which has impacted its performance.
- Most of the brainpower comes from the IITs, IIITs and NITs, but here CDAC has to compete with research grants from private companies like Google which are more attractive to the scientists.
Given that data is the new oil, India would do well to wake up to the challenge of developing indigenous supercomputers that can reduce its dependency on imports, give it a foothold against China & US and, ultimately, help turn its supercomputing 'SUPERFLOPs' into 'PETAFLOPS.'
Development of supercomputers in India
- India's supercomputer program was started in late 1980s because Cray supercomputers could not be imported into India due to an arms embargo imposed on India, as it was a dual-use technology and could be used for developing nuclear weapons.
- Due to this technology-denial move, India set up the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) in March 1988 with the clear mandate to develop an indigenous Development Supercomputer to meet high-speed computational needs in solving scientific and other developmental problems where fast number crunching is a major component.
- PARAM 8000, considered to be India’s “first supercomputer” was indigenously built in 1991 by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and was replicated and installed at ICAD Moscow in 1991 under Russian collaboration.
- Aaditya came from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Mumbai. It had a theoretical peak of 790.7 teraflop/s which is used for climate research and operational forecasting.
- The Supercomputer Education and Research Centre (SERC) of IISc inaugurated the Cray XC40 petaflop supercomputer, christened as SahasraT.
- But after a long gap, it was only in January this year that Pratyush, a Cray XC40 system - an array of computers that can deliver a peak power of 6.8 petaflops - was launched by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM).
- Pratyush is the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world dedicated for weather and climate research, after Japan, US, and the UK.
- More important, this development would move an Indian supercomputer from the 300s to the 30s ranking in the Top500 list, an international tracker of the world’s fastest supercomputers.
- NVIDIA recently announced that it would set up India’s first artificial intelligence powered supercomputer.
About National Knowledge Network (NKN)
- In March 2010, the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) approved the establishment of the National Knowledge Network (NKN) at an outlay of Rs 5990 Crore, to be implemented by National Informatics Center (NIC) over a period of 10 years.
- Establishing NKN is a significant step towards ushering in a knowledge revolution in the country with connectivity to 1500+ institutions.
- NKN is intended to connect all the knowledge and research institutions in the country using high bandwidth / low latency networks.
- Establishing a high-speed backbone connectivity which will enable knowledge and information sharing
- Enabling collaborative research, development and Innovation
- Facilitating advanced distance education in specialized fields such as engineering, science, medicine etc.
- Facilitating an ultra-high speed backbone for e-Governance
- Facilitating integration of different sectoral networks in the field of research, education, health, commerce and governance.
- Link to Global Networks to collaborate with the research communities across the globe.
About Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC)
- It is the premier R&D organization of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) for carrying out R&D in IT, Electronics and associated areas. Different areas of C-DAC, had originated at different times, many of which came out as a result of identification of opportunities.
About the Supercomputer Education and Research Centre (SERC)
- It is the country’s leading computing centre having the state-of-the art computing facilities of high performance computing for scientific and engineering research.
- It has sophisticated software packages which work in a functionally distributed supercomputing environment connected by a powerful high- speed network and is working together with C-DAC.
About National Informatics Centre
- It is an attached office under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.
- NIC provides infrastructure to help support delivery of Government IT services and delivery of some of the initiatives of Digital India.
Also read: India’s First Manned Mission Gaganyaan