India’s supercomputer mission enabler Atos faces uncertainty

France-based Atos, which partners the India Supercomputing Mission and is reported to be on the verge of a break-up

CDAC’s Param Siddhi supercomputer was built around an Atos-Bull machine / Photo IndiaAI/MeitY

European business news media has been  full of  speculation this week about the future of  France’s biggest  infotech company, Atos .

A Times of India  report suggests that the $ 12 billion giant that employs over 100,000 worldwide, faces possible break up of its business which straddles information technology, the cloud and cybersecurity, unless major restructuring takes place.

None of this would matter to India – except that since 2017, Atos has been the anchor partner of India’s  $ 600 million National Supercomputing Mission and has supplied dozens of high performance computing (HPC) machines  in assembled and fully or semi knocked down condition to the Pune, Maharashtra-headquartered, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).

C-DAC has customized and supplied them to multiple IITs and other academic institutions under the Param label.

According to the last semi-annual ranking of the world’s fastest supercomputers in November 2023, known as ‘Top500’ , the second-fastest supercomputer in India is the Param Siddhi, housed in C-DAC, with a top performance of 4.62 petaflops. It is  built around an  Atos-Bull machine.

Contract to built  2 petaflop supercomputers for India

Perhaps more critically, Eviden, the business arm of  Atos was awarded a $ 100 million contract in June 2023,  by India’s  Ministry of Earth Sciences, to build two new supercomputers based on the Atos- BullSequana XH2000 platform and dedicated to weather modelling and climate research.

The two machines will be housed at the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and the Noida (National Capital Region)-based National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (NCMRWF) and will perform to 13 petaflops and 8.3 petaflops respectively.

A petaflop Is 1 million gigaflops (floating point operations) or one thousand tera flops and  is represented by one followed by 15 zeros.

These two supercomputers are not yet known to have been delivered.  Atos is also in engagement with C-DAC for the progressive manufacture of its computers in India.

Will India’s supercomputing roadmap suffer delays in any way because of its French partner’s current woes?  Atos is said to be in the process of refinancing its debt.

Acquisitions   brought many brands under the Atos  fold since 2011 –like Siemens IT solutions, Bull computers, Xerox and Syntel.    In the worst case, they may be hived off to different buyers – but it is early days to speculate.  Hopefully France may  not let its flagship private tech company go under without some nudges in the direction of a new, healthier second coming.

Meanwhile, the Indian government agencies with a stake in a stable Atos or at least in the supercomputing business of the company, may just have to wait and watch developments.