Supercomputing is Here!

DQI Bureau
New Update

Supercomputing or High Performance Computing (HPC), is

witnessing a growth momentum in India, thanks to lessening of restrictions and

easy availability of components (both hardware and software) to assemble a

supercomputer. This has resulted in increased demand for HPC in various sectors

of the industry, broadening the base of installing supercomputers in India,

which traditionally were confined to leading research and scientific



All this is good news for global HPC vendors like HP, IBM, SGI,

Dell apart from some of the relatively new players like Wipro Infotech and HCL

Technologies. According to estimates, the domestic market for supercomputers is

presently more than $1 bn.

Going Back in Time

Due to restrictions put in place by the US government in the 1980s, the
import of components to assemble a supercomputer was a near impossibility as

most supercomputing vendors were primarily from the US. India wanted to import a

CRAY supercomputer, which was denied by the US government through a "Denial

List Parties". The reason was the United States fear that the components

might be used for military purposes. C-DAC spearheaded Indias capability to

independently develop supercomputers and all efforts resulted in the development

of the famed Param Padma, which put India on the global map.


That was then. Now, things have changed for the better. There is

no need to import components needed for assembling a supercomputer as they are

available in India. The only restriction applies to MNC vendors like HP and IBM

who have a list of names to whom they cannot supply. According to Viswanath

Ramaswamy, general manager, Projects, STG, IBM India/South Asia, "We have

come a long way on this issue. Today, organizations can go in for 600 or more

nodes without going in for any approvals. It is also due to the improvement in

the US and India relations."

Beyond R&D

An interesting development in India is that supercomputers have become more
mainstream. It is not confined to only research institutions any more as was the

case traditionally. According to Ramaswamy, "It is growing in multiple

segments. We see a decent growth in embedded design architecture and VLSI








GE Jack Welch Research

Center, Bangalore ONGC, Texas Instruments, Institute of Genomics and

Integrative Biology, Delhi

HCL Technologies


Facility for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (SCFBio) at

IIT Delhi


University of

Hyderabad, ONGC, IISC, Bangalore



Education Research Center (SERC), Bangalore


Institute of Plasma

Research, Gandhinagar, Gujarat

*The list is


Ashutosh Vaidya, VP, Personal Computing Division, Wipro Infotech,

says, "Now it is possible for even an engineering college, present in

almost every district, to install a supercomputer. The prices are very

affordable and it can start from 8 nodes onward."

According to Faisal Paul, country manager, High Performance

Computing & Linux Business, Technology Solutions Group, HP India, "It

was a myth that HPC is only meant for research institutes. This was broken with

supercomputers being built with small building blocks". He also feels that

organizations dont need to earmark huge investment upfront. It can be done on

a piece-by-piece approach. Organizations can start small and as the business

grows, they can add more compute power to machines.


Global and Indian Landscape

According to Anand Babu, CTO of Z Research, a supercomputing company uses
software technology based on free software and "open standards" to

enable system integrators to deploy supercomputers, "Two things that have

revolutionized supercomputing and superstorage are free software movement and

clustered architecture-based hardware. In the past, supercomputers were

primarily on a proprietary technology and not affordable at all. Only national

labs could afford them. It was clustering of different machines to get more

compute power that really revolutionized it.

"It was the clustered architecture, the Linux kernel, and a

bunch of software that were developed to put together a loosely connected

machine together to run some scientific applications," adds Babu.


The myth that HPC is only

meant for research institutes was broken with supercomputers being built

with small building blocks

Now it is possible for

even an engineering college, present in almost every district, to install

a supercomputer


Faisal Paul, country

manager, HPC & Linux Business, Technology Solutions Group, HP India

Ashutosh Vaidya, VP,

Personal Computing Division

HP and IBM continue to be two of the leading supercomputing

vendors. According to the latest Top 500 list released recently, HP leads the

pack in terms of number of installations, having a share of 40.6%, while IBM is

way ahead of others in terms of performance and its share is 41.9%. This is

followed by HP, with 24.5%. In terms of processors for these 500 installations,

Intel has the majority share with 57.8%. IBMs Blue Gene/L (Lawrence Livermore

National Laboratory) leads the pack with a performance of 280.6 Teraflops, or

trillions of floating point calculations per second.

Out of the 500 fastest supercomputers, eleven are installed in

India in various research institutions and companies, most of the names of which

have not been revealed due to confidentiality reasons. These are primarily IBM

and HP systems.


Vendor Strategy

Some of the vendors and system integrators who are bullish on HPC in India
include HP, IBM, SGI, apart from Wipro Infotech and HCL Technologies. Most of

the players have end-to-end solutions set and also help customers to manage them

after installations. HPs strategy for HPC is to service the market around

compute, storage, and visualization and integrating them together to give

computing performance over a high speed interconnect backbone.

IBM, on the other hand, has different solutions and packages for

the different segments. According to Ramaswamy of IBM, "We have addressed

every single segment starting from sixteen node to as high as 2,000 node


Today organizations can

go for 600 or more nodes without going into any approvals

Free software movement

and clustered architecture based hardware have revolutionized

supercomputing globally

Viswanath Ramaswamy,

GM, Projects, STG, IBM India/South Asia

Anand Babu, CTO,

Z Research

According to Ashutosh Vaidya of Wipro Infotech, "Our job is

to make sure that the availability of HPC is known to people. Supercomputing and

super storage have become affordable in the last 3-4 years. The amount of

research that is happening has also increased tremendously, moving into a

different ball game. There is immense scope of utilizing brain power provided

that right tools are there."

Incidentally, Wipro Infotech recently launched its Wipro

Supernova range of supercomputers in exclusive partnership with the

California-based Z Research. This company helps system integrators with little

or no experience to build compute clusters, massive storage systems and

supercomputers using a clustered architecture.

The Outlook

HPC systems are becoming affordable, thanks to reduction in installation per
node. The availability of standard-based systems has also helped the

proliferation of HPC in India. All this means that chances of more entities

ranging from the computer science department of engineering colleges to

production houses, having access to supercomputers are high. There is a general

agreement among vendors that as and when the indo-US nuclear deal comes into

effect, chances of restrictions easing further would be very high. There is a

hope that organizations like the BARC and Nuclear Power Corporation, which are

still on the "Denied Parties List" have access to the supercomputers

from the open market.

Sudesh Prasad