Come June, India will likely unveil its most powerful supercomputer. If its processors operate at the full capacity of 10 petaflops (1 followed by 15 zeroes of floating point operations per second), a clock speed a million times faster than the fastest consumer laptops, it could earn a place among the world’s top 10 fastest supercomputers.
Though India has built or hosted supercomputers since the 1990s, it held a ‘top 10’ spot only once, in 2007, thanks to the EKA built by the Computational Research Laboratories, which is part of the Tata group. This position was lost, though several ultra-fast machines exist in Indian academic institutions: they feature in the 100s or 200s in global rankings.
The as-yet-unnamed machine will be jointly hosted at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting at Noida in Uttar Pradesh.
For the first time, colleges and other research institutions can log in and harness its power to address problems, ranging from weather modelling to understanding how proteins fold. “The tender [to select the company that will build the machine] is ready and we hope to have it [the computer] by June” Madhavan Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, told The Hindu .
₹400 crore sanctioned
The government has sanctioned ₹400 crore for the project this year. Most of the machine’s computing power will help in monsoon forecasting, using a dynamical model. This requires simulating the weather for a given month — say March — and letting a custom-built model calculate how the actual weather will play out over June, July, August and September.
The processing speed of supercomputers is only one of the factors that determine its worth, with power usage and arrangement of processors, being other key metrics that determine the worth of a system.
Top500, the global authority tracking the fastest 500 computers, said in its latest report that China and the U.S. were “pacing each other for supercomputing supremacy.”