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India signs local server-maker to build nodes for home-grown supercomputers

Local manufacturer to build modest kit for modestly sized supers

India's ambition to become self-sufficient in hardware has taken a small step forward after the nation's Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) contracted a local manufacturer to build the designed-in-India servers for a future supercomputer project.

The manufacturer is called VVDN Technologies and last week it announced it's been selected to build servers for India's PARAM supercomputers.

Sadly VVDN, CDAC and other relevant Indian government agencies have not offered any information on which PARAM rigs will use the locally manufactured servers. Two PARAM machines were inaugurated in March 2022: the 312-node, 1.67 petaflop Ganga, and the 404-node, 1.6 petaflop Shakti.

CDAC plans to build 24 supers and has deployed 11 to date. VVDN may therefore be very busy in coming months and years.

But the supers to which it contributes may not be very super – the Rudra server is a 1U or 2U design that can accommodate Intel's Cascade Lake Xeons, a pair of GPUs, and employ DDR4 RAM.

That's a commodity server – not a screamer that puts India or VVDN on the leading edge. Nor are the node counts involved in past Indian HPC efforts notable by global standards. The contract is therefore not likely to advance India's goal of demonstrating it can serve as an alternative source of offshore server manufacturing capacity to anyone spooked by recent supply chain hiccups caused by COVID and geopolitics.

The likes of Inspur, Quanta, Dell, HPE and Lenovo will not see this deal as a substantial threat.

VVDN's vice president for business development, Nitin Jain, was nonetheless chuffed to have won the work.

"This collaboration with CDAC is the testimony of the advancement towards strengthening Indian research and development by doing indigenous design, development, manufacturing, and deployment of cost-effective servers which can be called DESIGN and MAKE in INDIA," he is quoted as saying in a canned statement.

VVDN also makes whitegoods, tablet computers, and wired and wireless networking kit including 5G equipment.

The company could soon be very busy with the latter, as India last week commenced an auction for 5G spectrum. At the time of writing, bids had reached nearly $19 billion, and the auction has a couple of days to run.

Indian industrial conglomerate Reliance, which operates wireless carrier Jio, has developed a home-grown 5G stack and teamed with Qualcomm for the necessary hardware. ®

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