by May 10, 2002 0 comments

It is not that supercomputers are the domain of only the affluent nations. India has a fair number of supercomputing installations engaged in everything from aircraft and missile design to weather forecast to academic research. More than that, many of these are home-grown designs of high-performance clusters.

The most famous of the made-in-India supercomputers is the Param (Parallel Machine) from C-DAC. But the Param is not the only supercomputer to be built in India. There are at least three other independent efforts at building supercomputers that have been successful. There is the Flosolver (now the SuperSolver) from Hindustan Aeronautics, Bangalore; the Anupam from BARC Bombay; and Anurag from DRDO, Hyderabad. And all of them taken together, along with the few commercially-available supercomputers, should add up to at least thirty to forty supercomputer installations in the country.

The Hansa, India’s first all-composite trainer aircraft, was designed using an indigenously developed supercomputer, the FlowSolverC-DAC was itself started to build an indigenous supercomputer when the US refused to sell an older Cray for monsoon prediction work. The Param is currently a cluster of off-the-shelf Sun UltraSPARCs. Since it was first launched, the Param has seen a couple of generations go by, and is currently at Param 10000. The Param series started off with the 8000, which used INMOS transputers for the compute and service engines. The 8600 used the i860 RISC processor as compute nodes and the transputer as service nodes. The 9000 could use the SPARC, Alpha or PowerPC. The current Param, the 10000, is based on the UltraSPARC II 300 MHz, with up to four compute nodes, another four as file servers, two as graphics workstations and one as Internet server, adding up to a maximum of 12 machines in the cluster. The 100 GFlops Param 10000 is installed at the National Supercomputing Facility, Pune. 12 Params of 6.4 Gflops peak capability are installed at various engineering colleges, including the IITs. The Param is perhaps the only Indian supercomputer to be exported, with installations in Singapore, Moscow and Germany.

The Flosolver program started in 1986, and its claim to fame is that it has been used in the analysis of missiles. Its successor the SuperSolver has been used in the design of the Hansa aircraft. The Hansa is India’s first all composite trainer aircraft. The SuperSolver is a cluster of four R8000 64 bit RICS CPUs at 75 MHz, with a peak performance of 1.2

The Anupam series of BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai) supercomputers uses run of the mill PCs or Alpha work stations to achieve supercomputing speeds. The program started in 1991 with a 4 node machine based on Intel 860 microprocessors with a sustained speed of 32 Mflops, and has currently reached a 84 node PIII based system with a sustained speed of 15 Gflops. BARC is now working on a 128 node Alpha-based supercomputer, which should reach a sustained speed of 50

Besides BARC, there are about 11 Anupam supercomputers installed at various locations, ranging from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthpuram to the Aeronautical Developement Agency, Bangalore, and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, Delhi. 

The Anurag (Advanced numeric Research and Analysis Group) supercomputer project of the DRDO was started in
1995-96. The details of the specification are not available, but it is known that this machine has been used in the LCA project

The latest from this front is a plan to network all the supercomputers in the country to form a grid. Dubbed the I-Grid, this initiative by C-DAC is expected to be implemented as part of the 10th five-year plan.

Krishna Kumar with Pragya Madan in Mumbai, Zia Askari in Hyderabad and Suma EP in Bangalore

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