India’s most powerful supercomputer Pratyush, the first multi-petaflop device in the country which is being used to improve weather and climate predictions, has made it to the 39th spot on the Top 500 List of supercomputers in the world.
The 4 petaflop supercomputer has improved India’s ranking in the list from high 300s to under 50 for the first time. Commissioned in January, Pratyush will be used to do more accurate weather and climate forecasting, including the all-important monsoon predictions.
Pratyush is setup at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, also has a smaller brother Mihir, a 2.9 petaflop supercomputer which is operational at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast in Noida. Mihir ranks 66th in the Top 500 List of supercomputers in June.
Including Pratyush and Mihir, India has five supercomputers in the list of 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world. Three of these facilities are dedicated to running simulations and models for weather prediction at different national labs, while the fourth belongs to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the fifth to a software company.
According to IITM, the supercomputer will help in better forecasting of monsoons, extreme events such as tsunamis, cyclones, earthquakes, flood and drought. It will also monitor and predict air quality, something which is becoming important in the country’s large metro and industrial cities.
While Pratyush and Mihir are major milestones in India’s quest to build ever powerful supercomputers to aid research, do weather predictions and for other civil and defence needs, several experts say the country is doing far too little on the front. There is a much larger requirement for supercomputers in India which they say in this digital age is directly linked to the amount of scientific and technological research being done.
It’s little wonder that other countries take so much pride in showcasing their most powerful supercomputers, which can sometimes cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and run. China and the US house majority of the world’s most powerful supercomputers and have been in an arms race to build the fastest machines for years now.
June’s edition of the Top 500 List also showed that the US after five years of lagging behind China in housing the most powerful supercomputer on earth, finally reclaimed the top slot with its IBM-built machine called Summit housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Summit has a peak speed of 187 petaflops, or is a little more than 45 times more powerful than Pratyush.
Summit will be used for civilian research, especially in streams such as materials, cancer, fusion energy, astrophysics and the Earth's changing climate. Another US supercomputer Sierra with 119 teraflops of peak speed claimed the third spot in the June list and will be used for nuclear weapons research allowing researchers to model such weapons without actually detonating them.