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Tata group to soup up supercomputer's processing power five times

By Rajesh Kurup in Mumbai
May 14, 2009 04:21 IST
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When it was developed two years ago, the Tata group's supercomputer, christened Eka, was ranked the fourth fastest in the world by the US-based International Conference for High Performance Computing. It was also ranked the fastest in Asia for High Performance Computing, networking, storage and analysis.

Since then, with many US companies developing faster supercomputers, Eka was pushed down to 13th position.

The Tata group, however, is not lying low. It is now planning to increase the supercomputer's processing power by at least five times, under a project titled Eka plus plus (Eka++). The Computational Research Laboratories--a subsidiary of the Tata group's holding company Tata Sons--has already started work on this front.

CRL Head (HPC Engineering and Operations) Seetha Rama Krishna confirmed the development. "This is not an easy task," he added, "since to create this kind of processing power, we need a lot of software and hardware and most importantly compatibility between these varied systems". He, however, did not divulge the time CRL would take to complete the upgrade of Eka.

"All the software, hardware and processing power will have to mature. Even though we have internal deadlines, I am not at liberty to disclose it," he said. Industry analysts think the project will take at least two to three years to be completed.

The Tata group (read CRL), meanwhile, has already begun offering supercomputing as a service on Eka. Around 40 organisations--from aerospace to automobile and life sciences to manufacturing--rent out Eka's services. Aviation major Boeing and Tata Motors are among those using the services. Earlier, group company Tata Elxsi used Eka to cut production time for the animation movie Roadside Romeo. Eka helped it reduce time to six months from the 36 to 40 months it would have taken.

Eka--which put India and Tata on the global computing map--uses around 1,800 computing nodes and has a peak performance of 170 teraflops. It has been using the CLOS architecture (which is used for large-capacity switches), with off-the-shelf servers and infiniband interconnect technologies and the Linux operating system.

Will the Eka++ project, though, help the Tata group regain the supercomputer's lost ranking? It's a difficult call because research and development is taking place all around the world at a fast pace, said industry analysts who did not wish to be identified. Besides, other companies are not resting on their laurels either.

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Rajesh Kurup in Mumbai
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