The supercomputer 'EKA', which means number one in Sanskrit, was named Asia's fastest and the world's fourth fastest in the Top 500 Supercomputer list announced at an International Conference for High Performance Computing at Reno (California), USA, on Monday night. This is the first time that such a system developed in India has been ranked among the world's ten fastest.
Supercomputers are primarily used by universities, military and scientific research labs. They are used in high calculation-intensive jobs like quantum physics, weather and climate research, study of chemical compounds, simulation of aircraft in wind tunnels and detonation of nuclear weapons.
A total of nine supercomputers developed in India have appeared in the Top 500 list, including one more system (179th) developed at Tata Sons' wholly-owned subsidiary Computational Research Laboratories (CRL) in Pune, where EKA was developed.
Others include a system developed at Indian Institute of Science (58th) and six IBM systems (ranked at 152nd, 158th, 336th, 339th, 340th and 371st) developed in the country.
The group chairman Ratan Tata said in a statement: "High performance computing solutions have an ever-increasing role in the scientific and new technological space the world over. The Tata group has supported this development activity and is extremely proud of the team that has developed and built this supercomputer, which is now ranked the world's fourth fastest."
"I am sure this supercomputer and its successor systems will make a major contribution to India's ongoing scientific and technological initiatives," he added.
The Top 500 list has been topped by BlueGene/L System, a joint development of IBM and the US Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and installed at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.
Another system developed by IBM is at the second position and is installed in Germany, followed by one developed by SGI and installed in New Mexico Computing Applications Centre.
EKA has been ranked even higher than a new HP system installed at a Swedish government agency. The HP system is ranked fifth in the world.
"EKA marks a milestone in the Tata group's effort to build an indigenous high performance computing solution. CRL built the supercomputer facility using dense data centre layout and novel network routing and parallel processing library technologies developed by its scientists," Tata group said in a statement.
The fastest supercomputer recorded a speed of 478.2 teraflops per second (trillions of calculations per second), while EKA recorded a performance of 117.9 teraflops per second.
"EKA has put India at the forefront of high performance and supercomputing technology globally. It gives us the ability to address applications in multiple disciplines including software development and research," CRL chairman and TCS CEO and MD S Ramadorai said.
The CRL supercomputer includes nodes and racks built by HP. The CRL team has been actively supported by scientists and engineers at Tata Consultancy Services.
In the near term, CRL is targeting and developing applications such as neural simulation, molecular simulation, computational fluid dynamics, crash simulation, and digital media animation and rendering.
The longer term application areas would include financial modelling, seismic modelling, geophysical signal processing, weather prediction, medical imaging, nanotechnology, personalised drug discovery, real time rendering, and virtual worlds among others.
CRL also intends to offer high performance and supercomputer system integration, research, applications and software services to its customers around the globe in the area of high performance computing.
Supercomputers were first developed early in 1960s by Seymour Cray at Control Data Corporation (CDC). These days the supercomputer market is dominated by companies like IBM and HP, while Cray, who later left CDC and founded his own company. Cray Inc is also building supercomputers.