NRI duo in supercomputer race

By SiliconIndia   |   Wednesday, 19 May 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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FREMONT: Two supercomputer genuises of Indian-origin are working together to build mammoth computing systems.

While, California Digital Corporation (CDC), the Fremont, US-based technology company, founded by B J Arun, CEO, has just deployed ‘Thunder’, a giant number cruncher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, California.

On the other hand, the company’s CTO, Prof. Srinidhi Varadarajan built ‘System 10’, a non-proprietary, supercomputer using 1100 Apple G5 machines. He continues to hold the post of director, supercomputer facility at Virginia Tech.

CDC’s Thunder is expected to take the second place in the June list of top 500 supercomputers — an annual ranking of world’s fastest computing systems. System 10 is already placed at the third slot in the current top 500 supercomputer listing.

The number one ranked supercomputer is the NEC-built Earth Simulator, which is housed in Yokohama. How big is big in this world? The Japanese machine is a 35.86 teraflop system — a teraflop being short for trillions of floating point operations per second. Thunder is a 19.94 sustained teraflop system, while System 10 delivers 10 teraflops.

The CDAC, India, built supercomputer PARAM Padma is a half a teraflop cluster. It ranks 171 in the list of top 500 supercomputers in the world. CDC’s ‘Thunder’ runs on 4096 Intel’s Itanium 2 processors.

It has been built by using the self building blocks and Linux operating system. To manage the cluster (bunch of servers) effectively, California Digital together with Lawrence Livermore has developed a wide range of open source software tools. Until the late 90’s supercomputers had traditionally been built using proprietary architecture and software.

It’s only of late that supercomputer’s built with low priced components and running on open source Operating System have started making their presence felt.

Arun said that Thunder has been built at fraction of Earth Simulator’s cost. To prove his point he said that it cost approximately $20 million to put together Thunder, in comparison to the over $ 350 million (just hardware cost) that it took NEC to build the Earth Simulator.

This has been possible due to CDC using COTS (commodity off-the-shelf) building blocks and Linux software. Mr Arun said that it took CDC just five months to build, test and deploy the system. At Lawrence Livermore, Thunder is being used to run a diverse range of applications. These include material science, national security, structural mechanics, electromagnetics among several others.

CDC builds clustered computing solutions for enterprise and government technical customers. This privately held company, with headquarters in Fremont has development centers in Bangalore. It has recently set up another software development center in Blacksburg, Virginia for Prof. Varadarajan to continue development of his cluster reliability software.

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