Supercomputer awaiting business at IT park

2019-02-13

Republica National Daily


Feb 13: The country’s first supercomputer, installed six months ago at Information Technology (IT) Park in Banepa of Kavre district, has remained a mere show piece till date in lack of business. 

The computer is based on High Performance Computing (HPC) technology that could contribute significantly on research work, according to Manoj Shakya, associate professor of Kathmandu University (KU). 
It computer is suitable to handle large databases. 

The university had received it as a gift from Switzerland in cooperation with Nepal government. “It can do a work in two hours that an ordinary computer takes 10 days,” Shakya said, “Ordinary computers use a serial processing method: receive data input, store, process, and produce output. But supercomputers work very differently.” 

He further said that the supercomputer has 184 computer servers, 16 storage servers, and 12 high-speed switches that help reduce the working hours. 

According to Shakya, the computer can significantly help the works of Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, banks, civil offices, and other areas that require high processing power.

“Most of the companies today are using cloud to store their data. For them also, it can be useful,” he added. “Moreover, it could be highly useful for academic institutions, especially for research and laboratory works.” 

“Government can also use this computer as a processing and data center. However, it works as a HPC machine more than a data center,” he said, adding: “It costs more than Rs 10 million.” 

Shakya even questioned the utility of supercomputer for Nepal. 

“A question has arisen whether Nepal needs this computer,” he said. “We don’t know how to utilize it.” 

According to Shakya it might take at least two to three years to bring this computer into full-fledged operation. “We are waiting for the government to come up with some strategy to utilize this technology, since the major issue now is how to sustain this computer,” he added. 

The computer requires 200 KV power supply to work in full capacity, which requires about Rs 400,000 per month. It has to work 24 hours to survive. It has to sustain from the charges that consumers pay,” he said. 

Explaining the features of supercomputer, physicists at the university said that it can greatly contribute in tracking pollution, identifying the hydro-electric potential of rivers, and much more. Real and simulated data in all these areas need to be collected and preserved for analysis. 

Currently the university is holding meetings with stakeholders including the government to put the computer to work, according to Bal Krishna Bal, head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the university. 

Meanwhile, the IT Park itself, spanning in over 235 ropani of land, is not in use for the last 15 years. Two employees are deployed to upkeep its building. According to the in-charge of the park, Dipak Kumar Jha, the government is preparing to keep security press in this area. The IT Park was established in 2003 with an aim to promote information technology and services in the country.