National Supercomputing Mission: Atos gets ₹4,500-cr project

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on December 16, 2018

The supercomputers will not only be manufactured but also be designed by CDAC in India.

After a delay of more than three years, India, on Saturday, awarded French technology firm Atos a ₹4,500-crore contract to build 70 supercomputers under the National Supercomputing Mission.

The contract could see as many as 73 supercomputers manufactured and designed in India, and will boost India’s supercomputing capabilities. Atos was competing against Lenovo, HP and Netweb Technologies for the contract. However, in terms of the speed, even the upcoming supercomputers will greatly lag those built by China, the world’s largest supercomputer powerhouse.

“Since the beginning, NSM was never targeted to be in the top-500 list. We wanted to make the project based on applications that will be important for the country. Right now, top-500 ranking is only a money game.

“We will pick up relevant applications for India and whatever needs are there for those applications, we will build the supercomputers accordingly,” Herman Darbari, Director General, C-DAC, told BusinessLine. The National Supercomputing Mission was announced in March 2015, with an aim to connect national academic and R&D institutions with a grid of more than 70 high-performance computing facilities at an estimated cost of ₹4,500 crore.

Delay in project

However, funding crunch, along with challenges in getting different ministries to work together, led to a three-year delay in the project.

The mission is supposed to be implemented by the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), through the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.

While the first few supercomputers under the contract will have all imported parts, Atos has partnered with Indian contractors to build most of the parts in facilities in Chennai and Pune.

In the next phase, the supercomputers will not only be manufactured but also be designed by CDAC in India, allowing the country to be self-reliant in the technology that is essential for India’s new-age applications such as drug discovery, weather and natural disaster prediction, and even space ambitions.

The first three supercomputers will be set up in IIT BHU, IIT Kharagpur and IIITM Pune. While IIT BHU will get a one Peta Flop supercomputer, the other two institutes will have 650 Teraflops each. Eventually, CDAC plans to connect all the supercomputers to a common grid, which will allow any institute access to a supercomputing power, making the common system among the fastest in the world.

“Whenever we set up a supercompter, 60 per cent of the time will be used by that institute, while the rest will be available to anyone in the country through a common grid,” said Darbari.

Atos has 30,000 employees in India, including a large number of R&D engineers, who will design the machines.

The company’s partners will help manufacture these machines in India.

Published on December 16, 2018

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