A `super' performance by Linux

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From: Eugene Leitl (eugene.leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de)
Date: Sat Jan 08 2000 - 19:11:51 PST


A `super' performance by Linux

NRI builds India's first supercomputer running on the OS

By Srinivasa Prasad

BANGALORE: An NRI from Bangalore has developed India's first
commercial supercomputer based on the Linux operating system. It costs
just a fraction of what a conventional Cray does but works nearly as

Mahesh Jayachandra, 37, who has built two models of a supercomputer in
a cramped office block on Bangalore's Mahatma Gandhi Road, is not a
computer prodigy. In fact, he is a neurophysiologist who studied in
Bangalore and Pune and went on to New York.

``The two models -- Peacock and Maya -- will cost between Rs 5 lakh
and Rs 10 lakh each, while a Cray costs nearly $10 million, or about
Rs 50 crore,'' he explains. ``Standard benchmarks have demonstrated
that Peacock and Maya achieve performances comparable to
supercomputers costing millions of dollars.''

Jayachandra, a brain scientist currently associated with the
physiology department of St John's Medical College in the city, hit
upon the idea of developing an economically viable supercomputer that
is useful to his own research work.

Linux-based supercomputers have been developed and are being used
widely by universities and other agencies in the United States. But it
is for the first time that a similar system has been developed in
India and is being made available for sale.

A supercomputer that is capable of handling large-scale computing at
breakneck speeds has a wide range of applications in many areas,
including defence, space, medicine, meteorology and the
Internet. Industry sources say the Centre for Development of Advanced
Computing (C-DAC) is making a supercomputer in which research
organisations of the defence ministry are showing a keen interest.

What Jayachandra has developed with help of a band of committed
computer professionals -- who have had extensive Linux training in the
US for about 10 years -- operates on the easy-to-learn Linux

Linux is a 32-bit multi-tasking, multi-user operating system that runs
on most computers and inter-operates well with other systems like
Apple, Microsoft or Novell. Linux gurus claim it comes with robust
software which is being constantly improved in the ``largest
collaborative effort by programmers worldwide''.

Besides, Linux is free, built around the ``open source philosophy''
which makes it a technology that is neither dependent nor controlled
by any single individual, company or country. ``Our systems are built
from standard, off-the-shelf components easily available in Indian
markets,'' Jayachandra points out. ``We bought some of the components
on Subedar Chatram Road,'' he says, half in jest.

The knowhow was freely available on the Web. ``All we needed was to
find where the information was available, some technical savvy and a
lot of patience.''

To develop and market the supercomputers, Jayachandra has incorporated
Peacock Solutions Private Ltd as the wholly Indian subsidiary of the
New York-based NRI group's Peacock Systems.

Jayachandra kept a crude version of this supercomputing system at last
month's Bangalore IT.Com. Many disbelieving scientists and computer
professionals made a beeline for his stall. Now the whole system is
neatly packaged into rack-mounted ready-to-use mobile enclosures.

(Jayachandra can be reached through www.peacocksys.com or at

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