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Monday, December 30, 2002

India launches supercomputer
Imran Qureshi

INDIA has beaten export control restrictions by the USA to announce the launch of the Param Padma, to date the most powerful supercomputer the country’s scientists have indigenously produced.

The one-teraflop (TF) scalable supercomputing cluster, claimed to be the largest machine in the Asia-Pacific outside Japan, is capable of setting the pace for an Indian revolution in the field of bioinformatics, weather forecasting, fluid mechanics in space technology, seismic data processing in oil and gas exploration, drug discovery and computational chemistry.

"At present we cannot import systems because of export control restrictions. But we have sourced some of our components from elsewhere and developed our own technologies to produce Padma," R.K. Arora, executive director of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), told reporters here.

Currently, the fastest supercomputer, a 36 TF machine, exists in Japan, followed by the USA with 13 TF.

One TF, or 1,000 gigaflops (GF), is equivalent to one trillion floating point operations per second. For the layman, it means calculations that a normal computer would take six months to perform can be done in a matter of minutes on this supercomputing cluster.

About 200 scientists developed the Param Padma at a cost of Rs.500 million over the last four years. The supercomputer was displayed at the sixth international conference on high performance computing in the Asia Pacific region.

The interconnect switch—the Paramnet II—and the entire suite of systems software tools including management, debugging, compiling and engineering solutions have been developed indigenously, Arora told IANS.

The US restrictions on India importing supercomputers came in the eighties on suspicions that New Delhi was using dual use technology for nuclear purposes.