India’s Rs 4500 Cr Supercomputer Mission on track, first one expected by December

The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) is evaluating the technical bids by firms such as Acer, Fujitsu, IBM, HCL, TCS, Dell and Netweb and the contract is likely to be awarded soon. India’s Rs 4500 Cr Supercomputer Mission on track, first one expected by December.

India is expected to have its first supercomputer of ₹4,500-crore National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) by December.

Supercomputer

The first phase of the NSM is focused on assembling the supercomputers, the build element will be part of the second phase. If things stay on track, IIT-Kharagpur will have a 1.3 petaflop machine and IISER Pune and IIT-BHU will have a 650 teraflop computer each by the year-end.

The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) is evaluating the technical bids by firms such as Acer, Fujitsu, IBM, HCL, TCS, Dell and Netweb and the contract is likely to be awarded soon.

“The project is not just building a supercomputer but also applications and that work hasn’t stopped. All other parts of the process are on track,” Hemant Darbari, director general, C-DAC told ET.

C-DAC, along with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru, is spearheading this project which was announced with much fanfare in 2015.

However, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. A person closely involved with the NSM said that there had been a number of delays over the past three years, largely because the project still doesn’t have one dedicated person heading it.

Funding has been another issue. Only a portion of the ₹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.

The NSM is to be jointly implemented by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) at an estimated cost of ₹4,500 crore over a period of seven years.

Another person closely following the NSM said that things tended to move slower if there was more than one government department involved, as is the case here.

India’s Rs 4500 Cr Supercomputer Mission on track, first one expected by December

The NSM was announced three years ago with an intent to propel India higher in the global supercomputer rankings. 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.

S Sadagopan, director at IIIT-Bengaluru, said a three-year delay was actually not bad, given traditionally these projects used to take much longer.

India’s Rs 4500 Cr Supercomputer Mission on track, first one expected by December

“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,” he said. This again, has an impact on the kind of talent available for the NSM.

As per the initial plan, 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.

India’s Rs 4500 Cr Supercomputer Mission on track, first one expected by December

High-performance computing is important if India wants to make significant progress in areas like weather forecasting, drug discovery, astrophysics and bioinformatics. NVIDIA recently announced that it would set up India’s first artificial intelligence powered supercomputer. MD Vishal Dhupar said the NSM was an important initiative for India as it needed to be able to apply high performance computing to available data to improve models.

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