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India will Unveil 18 New PetaFLOP Supercomputers


Recently  Union Earth Sciences Minister said that, India will unveil its new 18 petaFLOP supercomputer for weather forecasting institutes later this year.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Significant Advancements from New Supercomputer
  2. What are FLOPs in computing?
  3. What is PetaFLOP?
  4. The Role of FLOPs in Assessing Computer Performance

Significant Advancements from New Supercomputer

The new supercomputer is expected to bring significant advancements in weather forecasting capabilities. Here are the key improvements it aims to achieve:

  • Improved Weather Forecasts at Block Level: The supercomputer is anticipated to enhance weather forecasts at a more localized level, allowing for better accuracy and precision in predicting weather conditions at the block level.
  • Higher Resolution Ranges: Weather scientists will be able to provide forecasts with higher resolution ranges, offering more detailed and fine-grained information about weather patterns and variations.
  • Cyclone Prediction with Greater Accuracy and Lead Time: The supercomputer is expected to enhance the accuracy of cyclone predictions and provide better lead time, allowing authorities and communities to take necessary precautions and mitigate the impact of cyclonic events.
  • Ocean State Forecasts: In addition to weather forecasts, the supercomputer will also enable ocean state forecasts, including predictions related to marine water quality. This will be valuable for various sectors, such as marine industries and coastal management.
Other Details:
  • The Ministry of Earth Sciences Secretary mentioned that the current weather forecasts have a resolution of 12 kilometers, and the new supercomputer aims to improve it to a resolution of 6 kilometers.
  • The long-term goal is to achieve even higher resolution forecasts, aiming for a resolution as fine as one kilometer.
  • The supercomputer is estimated to cost Rs 900 crore.

What are FLOPs in computing?

  • FLOPs, or Floating-Point Operations per Second, is a commonly used metric to measure the computational performance – processing power and efficiency – especially in the field of high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Floating-point operations are a certain kind of mathematical calculation using real numbers with fractional parts.
How many FLOPs can a computer achieve?
  • Modern computing systems, such as CPUs (Central Processing Units) and GPUs (Graphics Processing Units), are designed to perform multiple operations simultaneously, using parallel processing techniques.
  • The parallelism significantly increases the number of FLOPs a system can achieve within a given time frame. Over the years, hardware has become more efficient, exponentially increasing computing power.
  • For instance, in 1961, the IBM 7030 Stretch, costing a whopping $ 7.8 million at the time, performed one floating-point multiplication every 2.4 microseconds, roughly performing 417,000 FLOPs.
  • A PlayStation 5 today is listed to have a peak performance of 10.28 TFLOP, i.e. 10.28 trillion FLOPs.

What is PetaFLOP?

  • A petaFLOP refers to a measure of computing speed or performance, specifically the ability to perform one quadrillion floating-point operations per second. It is a unit of measurement used to quantify the processing capacity of supercomputers and high-performance computing systems.
  • To provide context, here is a breakdown of the FLOPs metric and its various prefixes:
  • FLOPs (Floating-Point Operations per Second): This is the base unit of measurement for computing performance and represents the number of floating-point operations a computer system can perform in one second.
    • GFLOPs (GigaFLOPs): One billion FLOPs (10^9 FLOPs).
    • TFLOPs (TeraFLOPs): One trillion FLOPs (10^12 FLOPs).
    • PFLOPs (PetaFLOPs): One quadrillion FLOPs (10^15 FLOPs). A petaFLOP is equivalent to a thousand teraFLOPs or one million gigaFLOPs.

In 2008, the IBM Roadrunner supercomputer became the first system to break the petaFLOPS barrier, achieving a peak performance of 1.105 petaFLOPS. Since then, computing technology has continued to advance, and the current fastest supercomputer in terms of petaFLOPS is the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Frontier (OLCF-5), with a peak performance capability of 1,685.65 petaFLOPS.

The Role of FLOPs in Assessing Computer Performance:

  • FLOPs alone do not provide a comprehensive measure of a computer’s performance.
  • Factors like memory bandwidth, latency, and architectural features also contribute significantly.
  • However, FLOPs offer a useful baseline for comparing computational capabilities, particularly in tasks dominated by floating-point calculations.
Usage of PetaFLOPs Computers in Indian Weather Forecasting:
  • The National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) operates the ‘Mihir’ supercomputer, with a computing power of 2.8 petaFLOPs.
  • The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune houses the ‘Pratyush’ supercomputer, which has a computing power of 4.0 petaFLOPs.
  • These supercomputers were launched in 2018 but will be decommissioned upon the introduction of the new supercomputer, according to an NCMRWF official.
Allocation of Computing Power:
  • As per the ministry’s arrangement, the NCMRWF will receive eight petaFLOPs of computing power.
  • The remaining ten petaFLOPs will be allocated to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM).
  • The higher power allocation to IITM is justified by their focus on seasonal weather forecasts.
  • The NCMRWF primarily handles medium-range forecasts spanning three to seven days in advance.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024