India doubles supercomputing ability with new additions

India has doubled its supercomputing capabilities over the past year by adding at least 12 new machines that have put cities such as Bhopal, Indore and Ludhiana on the country's supercomputing map. The combined capability of the country's top systems has crossed 1 petaflops (1,000 trillion calculations a second) for the first time, according to 'Top Supercomputers-India', the latest list compiled by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

India lags behind countries such as the US and China in boosting its supercomputing capabilities and building faster machines, which has prompted the government to commit R5,000 crore over the next five years to build an ecosystem of supercomputers. The ability to crunch enormous amounts of data is critical to scientific research in climate modelling, aerospace and drug discovery, in addition to sectors such as telecom and finance.

While the combined computing power on the IISc list has increased from 404 teraflops in December 2011, experts point out that the challenge is to ramp up more rapidly.

"The effort is commendable, but we are growing at the same rate as technology is. Even to stay where you are, by Moore's law you should have doubled," said N Balakrishnan, associate director, IISc, which is co-ordinating the national initiative on supercomputers announced earlier this year. The proposal is to have a four-tier network of machines across the country which would ensure that at least 25% of the scientific population has access to a supercomputer. The Department of Science and Technology would be able to finalise on a structure to oversee the mission in a couple of months, Balakrishnan added.

This year's growth is mainly attributable to the installation of the country's fastest supercomputer at the Bangalore-based Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation(CMMACS), which has a Linpack benchmark performance speed of 303.9 teraflops. Besides, the Indian Space Research Organisation's system, which was built in mid-2011, figured in the list only this year after its Linpack performance value was evaluated.

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