Poor infrastructure delays supercomputer

Poor infrastructure delays supercomputer

New Delhi: The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), a government body dedicated to research in advanced computing, is blaming the lack of infrastructure, rather than technical competency, for missing a June deadline to develop India’s fastest supercomputer.

“Lack of adequate infrastructure is the main problem that has impeded the project," S. Ramakrishnan, director general of CDAC, said.

The yet-to-be-named supercomputer, designed to hit a peak of five teraflop or tfp (one teraflop is a trillion floating point operations per second, a measure of computing speed), was to be ready last December and was then rescheduled for a June launch. The supercomputer is now expected to be ready anytime between December 2007 and February 2008.

Supercomputers are an assortment of smaller computers connected to each other. Consequently, they occupy a lot of space and require elaborate cooling systems, all of which need to be housed in an adequately-sized building. “Technologically we are ready," Ramakrishnan said, “but there were external factors such as procuring a space to house the facility that should hopefully be resolved soon."

Another CDAC scientist, who didn’t wish to be identified, said the organization had been receiving eviction notices by the University of Pune. “It’s been years since we’ve been asking for land, but I don’t know how positively matters are progressing," he added.

Emails and calls for comment to the officials in the information technology ministry that oversees CDAC were not returned.

Ramakrishnan said the supercomputer to be unveiled between December and February 2008 will have double the ­processing speed it was supposed to.

“Actually, the 5tfp milestone is almost irrelevant now," admitted Ramakrishnan, “we are aiming for 10tfp speeds, which, if these other hurdles are cleared, should be ready anywhere between December and February."

Ever since Top500, a research project that tracks the 500 fastest computers in the world, ranked CDAC’s Param Padma supercomputer at No. 171 in 2003, CDAC supercomputers have been blown away by international competition. Its fastest supercomputers, including the Param 10,000, have a peak speed of a little over 1tfp per second, whereas the slowest super computer in the latest Top500, clocked 4tfp a second. IBM’s BlueGene, housed at the United States’ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, is currently the fastest supercomputer at 260.8tfp per second.

However, experts say that processing speeds are not the only criterion of supercomputing prowess. “Every project has its own customized needs," said Soumitra Deb, from IIT Kharagpur’s computer science department. “Having speeds of 100tfp might not be necessary for say, a small weather modelling project, but you have to keep being relevant."

However, a smaller CDAC project of developing a 1.5tfp supercomputer exclusively for bio-informatics applications, would be ready within a month, said S.C. Purohit, director, CDAC, who is involved ith the project.