BANGALORE, India The Indian government's Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) unveiled a high-performance computing cluster last week with a peak processing power of 1 teraflops, putting India on the world's supercomputing map.
The scalable cluster, called the Param Padma, uses parallel-processing technology and is intended for such applications as atmospheric science, seismic data processing, computational chemistry and fluid dynamics, C-DAC said. The system weighs 9 tons and covers 1,800 square feet of floor area.
Arun Shourie, the minister of the government agency that oversees C-DAC, hinted that the supercomputer's development would also help the security preparedness of India, a nuclear power.
"The cluster architecture is becoming a trend in developing scalable parallel computers," C-DAC said in a statement. "With the cost of commercial off-the-shelf high-performance interconnects falling and the respective performance of microprocessors increasing, workstation clusters have become an attractive computing platform, offering superior cost-effective performance."
While notable, C-DAC's accomplishment falls short of the world's leading supercomputing systems as ranked by an industry web site. The peak performance of the Param Padma is below the performance of all but 14 of the top 100 systems rated by last November, and is lower than the performance of the top-ranked NEC Earth-Simulator/5120 by more than a factor of 40.
Using as many as 248 of IBM Corp.'s 1-GHz Power4 processors, the Param Padma has 54 four-way symmetric multiprocessors and one 32-way SMP. It uses IBM's AIX operating system and boasts an aggregate memory of 500 Gbytes, internal storage of 4.5 Tbytes and a peak computing power of 1,005 gigaflops.
The system-area network, which C-DAC developed in-house, supports 1-Gbyte/second throughput with fullduplex backup. Primary storage is 5 Tbytes, and a tape library provides a backup storage capacity of 12 Tbytes. C-DAC developed all of the system's software.
The system's primary storage is scalable to 22 Tbytes, and its secondary backup-storage subsystem scales to 100 Tbytes with an automated tape library and support for DLT, SDLT and LTO Ultrium tape drivers. A hierarchical storage-management technology optimizes demand on primary storage and utilization of secondary storage.
The storage-area network uses Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop technology to interconnect storage subsystems such as parallel file servers, RAID storage arrays and automated tape libraries, achieving an I/O performance of up to 2 Gbytes/s.
ParamNet, the network's low-latency, high-bandwidth system-area software, was specifically developed for C-DAC's supercomputers. The network interface card (NIC) uses a 16-port switch for a nonblocking architecture that allows multilevel switching to realize a large cluster and very low latency. An interval-routing scheme combined with group adaptive routing ensures uniform bandwidth distribution. The NIC includes a million-gate communication coprocessor developed by C-DAC and built in a 0.15-micron process.
The Param Padma has one 32-way and 54 four-way SMP processors.
IBM's p630 and p690 systems were chosen as the compute notes for the cluster.
C-DAC was started in 1988 after the United States allowed an older Cray supercomputer to be exported to India after many rounds of negotiations, but only on condition that it be used for weather forecasting. "Constraints and restrictions imposed from time to time by advanced countries have made it all the more important for India to take multipronged initiatives to build expertise and systems in high-performance computing, an area of strategic importance," the C-DAC statement said.
Earlier Param machines have been installed outside India in Russia, Germany, Canada and Singapore, and C-DAC sees export potential in the new machines as well.
The importation of supercomputers became a point of contention after the United States banned their export to India following India's and Pakistan's tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998. But the ban produced some good, said Shourie, India's minister for communications and information technology. "The denial of supercomputers to India has been a blessing in disguise," said Shourie. It helped India "develop our own."
In addition to the work at C-DAC, another Indian agency, the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, has developed supercomputers using processors from Intel Corp.