India will get an indigenously built supercomputer next year as part of the government’s Rs. 4,500 crore programme aimed at taking India into an elite league of nations who have made advancements in the field. The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing that built India’s first supercomputer, PARAM, is handling the project, said Ashutosh Sharma, the Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology .

The government had in March last year approved the plan of the National Supercomputing Mission, under which 80 supercomputers will be built in the next seven years. “Some of them will be imported and the rest will be built indigenously. The first one will come up by August 2017 and we are working on how to control heat. The cost of power to run these supercomputers alone will be around Rs. 1,000 crore,” Sharma said.

 The new supercomputers will be kept in different institutes across the country. “A supercomputer can be used for various purposes like climate modelling, weather forecast and discoveries of drugs among others,” Sharma said. Currently, countries like the USA, Japan, China and the European Union account for a major share of the top supercomputing machines in the world.
After being denied by the American company, Cray supercomputers to build a supercomputer for India, as a result of a technology embargo, India started a program to develop indigenous supercomputers and supercomputing technologies. Supercomputers were considered a double edged weapon, capable of assisting in the development of nuclear weapons. For the purpose of achieving self-sufficiency in the field, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) was set up in 1988 by the then Department of Electronics with Dr. Vijay Bhatkar as its Director.
The project was given an initial run of 3 years and an initial funding of Rs. 3 crores, the same amount of money and time that was usually expended to purchase a supercomputer from the USA. In 1990, a prototype was produced and was benchmarked at the 1990 Zurich Supercomputering Show. It surpassed most other systems, placing India second after USA. The final result of the effort was the PARAM 8000, which was installed in 1991. It is considered India’s first supercomputer.

Also, India is developing a supercomputer to predict the monsoon with greater accuracy, and it hopes to have it up and running by next year. The meteorology office is spending $60 million to build the new supercomputer, which will use 3D modeling to predict how the seasonal rains will develop. M Rajeevan, India’s earth science secretary, did not say which companies will manufacture the computer, though he says that it will be 10 times faster than the current system, which was developed by IBM.

India’s farming sector is heavily reliant on the monsoon season, which runs from June to September. The monsoon accounts for more than two-thirds of the country’s annual rainfall, and accurate predictions could help farmers identify the best time to sow their crops. More accurate monsoon forecasts could boost farm production by up to 15 percent. In 2015, agriculture accounted for about 18 percent of India’s GDP, according to the World Bank.

India’s current forecasting system, first introduced during British colonial rule, is based on a statistical model that combines historical patterns with data collected from satellites, radar, and observatories. The country’s meteorology office has struggled to deliver accurate forecasts in recent years, most notably when it failed to predict a major drought in 2009.

India has also seen two consecutive years of drought, though the meteorology office has predicted that this year’s rains will not affect farm output. “In the last one decade, we have gained a greater degree of precision in forecasting rains,” Rajeevan commented. “But monsoon still remains a very complex weather system, which only God has the ability to understand fully.”



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