Sruthi Krishnan

CHENNAI: The government has to get more involved in supercomputing by creating a national supercomputer initiative or an agenda for supercomputing to spur growth in India, said Rupak Biswas, acting chief of NASA Advanced Supercomputing, NASA Ames Research Centre in California, U.S.

Dr. Biswas, who oversees the full range of high-performance computing services for NASA’s primary supercomputing centre, has been with the American space agency since 1991. For products such as mobile phones, irrespective of the government’s interventions, there would be demand, he said. And past experience suggested that government projects such as the Earth Simulator project of Japan or the DARPA High Productivity Computer Systems programme in the U.S. help create demand for supercomputing, he said.

Speaking at the sidelines of Dhi Yantra 2009, a workshop on brain modelling and supercomputing conducted by Waran Research Foundation, here on Sunday, Dr. Biswas said that the challenge in front of supercomputing was how to leverage advances in hardware while optimising existing software. As supercomputing was a niche area, it did not drive the Information Technology market. The field tried to leverage technical advances, spurred by the market, rather than deciding on the advances.

The type of problems handled by supercomputers, such as flying to the moon, required modelling and simulation and predictions based on them.

A lot of investment had gone into creating software required for such applications, which had to be modified to optimise the advances in hardware, he said.

There were a lot of innovations to tackle environmental concerns in the area of supercomputing, said Dr. Biswas. Apart from changes in the cooling process, such as moving from air-cooled systems to water-cooled systems, there were technological improvements to reduce power consumption. Processors that would slow down when no useful work was being done helped to reduce the power drawn by supercomputers, he said. The tug of war between the need for speed and environmental concerns was there in the area of supercomputing too, he said, adding that eventually there would be a balance between both these demands.

Responding to whether ‘supercomputing as a service’ could take off, Dr. Biswas said there were certain difficulties in reproducing a model of cloud computing for supercomputers.

The idea of cloud computing had been around for some time, he said, adding that there was no reason why computing services could not be obtained as a service just as electricity.