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Institute of Science Unveils One of India’s Fastest Supercomputers

Image Credit: iiscbangalore; Twitter

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) at Bengaluru, Karnataka has set up one of the country’s most powerful supercomputers and the largest in an Indian academic institution. The supercomputer, called Param Pravega, is expected to power diverse research and educational pursuits. It has a total supercomputing capacity of 3.3 petaflops (a measure of a computer’s processing speed). One petaflop equals quadrillion (thousand trillion) floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) or a thousand teraflops. The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) designed the supercomputer. The majority of the system’s components were manufactured and assembled in India. Also, the software stack that it runs on was indigenously developed by C-DAC.

The machine hosts an array of programme development tools, utilities, and libraries for developing and executing high-performance computing (HPC) applications. The node configuration of Param Pravega includes two master nodes, 11 login nodes, two firewall nodes, four management nodes, one NIS slave, and 624 (CPU + GPU) compute nodes. These nodes have been further subdivided into three categories: regular CPU nodes, high-memory CPU nodes, and GPU nodes. All the nodes in the system are connected using a FAT-tree topology with a 1:1 subscription ratio. It is also augmented with 4-petabyte parallel storage for parallel file system access.

Supercomputers like Param Parvega have helped students and faculty members conduct research and development activities including developing platforms for genomics and drug discovery, understanding environmental issues in the urban areas, setting up flood warning and prediction systems, and aiding the optimisation of telecom networks. IISc has an impressive computing infrastructure and established a cutting-edge supercomputer facility several years ago. In 2015, the institute procured and installed SahasraT, which was the fastest supercomputer in India at the time.

According to a statement by IISc, faculty members and students have been using this facility to carry out research in various impactful and socially-relevant areas. These include research on COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, such as modelling viral entry and binding, studying interactions of proteins in bacterial and viral diseases, and designing new molecules with antibacterial and antiviral properties. Researchers have also used the facility to simulate turbulent flows for green energy technologies, study climate change and associated impacts, and analyse aircraft engines and hypersonic flight vehicles, among other activities. These efforts are expected to ramp up significantly with Param Pravega.

The supercomputer was set up under the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM), which is spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). The mission aims to empower national academic institutions across the country by installing a supercomputing grid comprising over 70 HPC facilities. The supercomputers will also be networked on the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN). The NKN is another programme of the government, which connects academic institutions and research and development labs over a high-speed network.

Ten supercomputers have been deployed at IISc, the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune, The Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI-Mohali), and C-DAC. They have a cumulative computing power of 17 petaflops. About 3,100,000 computational jobs have successfully been carried out by around 2,600 researchers across the country to date.

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