The Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, home to the Supercomputer Education and Research Center (SERC), has remained the country’s premier facility for work requiring high-performance computing for more than a decade.
But its key platform – SahasraT – a Cray CX40 supercomputer which clocked at 901.5 teraflops (one teraflop is 1 trillion floating point operations per second) was quickly surpassed by other Cray systems acquired by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) Pune and the National Center for Medium Range Weather Forecast (NCMRWF) Delhi. And IISc no longer appears in the Top500 world ranking of the fastest supercomputers since 2017.
From now on, it could return to the next ranking in July: Thursday, February 3, IISc announced the commissioning of a new supercomputer, under the aegis of the National Supercomputing Mission: Param Pravega is part of the Param series of high-performance computers (HPCs), designed by the Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) headquartered in Pune.
Pravega has a maximum computational speed of 3.3 petaflops (or 3,300 teraflops), making it between three and four times faster than aging SahasraT. The hardware is based on an Atos Bull Sequana XH2000 system from France, with processors from Intel and graphics processors from NVIDIA, the two American manufacturers. System and software integration is the work of C-DAC’s Indian engineers.
“Buy and Build”
Indeed, this has been the pattern since the NSM redesign in 2014, with a new “buy and build” approach, where most hardware would initially come from a leading global manufacturer (currently Atos-Bull), in a reversed state, with manufacturing gradually shifting to a nodal Indian agency (C-DAC) which would design and configure the systems with indigenous software based on a version of the open source Linux programming language.
It was a kind of pragmatic Atmanirbhar Bharat in stages. About ten such systems with combined Indian and foreign DNA have been installed, mostly in IITs and other academic institutions.
India’s fastest computer
Interestingly, the IISc SERC, in its latest acquisition, has not opted for the fastest Param platform made so far. It’s the Param Siddhi-AI which registers 4,619 petaflops and is currently the fastest computer running in India. It is hosted at C-DAC and in the last semi-annual compilation of the world’s top 500 supercomputers, in November 2021, reached a ranking of 102.
IISc has a reputation for profitably exploiting the influence of the supercomputing it commands in down-to-earth applications. He deployed SahasraT to model viral diseases in the fight against Covid-19, develop green energy technologies and study climate change.
The extra computing muscle of Param Pravega it can be expected to further accelerate its work in tasks that are significant for society and important at the national level.
And they waste no time: their website has already opened up the new supercomputer, to take reservations from registered users for new tasks, living up to its name: Pravegahigh speed.
Technical details of Param Pravega at IISc can be read here.