Brazilian supercomputer back on Top 500 list after funding boost

After a period of funding struggles, the Santos Dumont complex is now back on the list of the world's best supercomputers.
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

With new funding, Brazilian supercomputer Santos Dumont had a four-fold increase in capacity following budget cuts that led to its partial deactivation.

The funding package of 63 million reais ($14.7 million) is a tiny share of the oil drilling business a pool of companies operates in Brazil through auctions. Thanks to the boost, the Santos Dumont complex is back on the list of the world's 500 most powerful supercomputers with capacity increased from 1.1 petaflops to 5.1 petaflops.

Based in the National Laboratory of Scientific Computing (LNCC) in the Rio de Janeiro city of Petrópolis, the supercomputer was launched in 2015 and is the largest in Brazil. Santos Dumont is a cluster composed of three systems, Santos Dumont CPU, Santos Dumont GPU, and Santos Dumont Hybrid. It currently occupies the 193th place in the Top500 global ranking of supercomputers.

The supercomputer's aim is to accelerate research, obtaining results in timescales that could only be achieved in years if executed in ordinary computers. Some 130 research projects are underway in the Santos Dumont complex in areas such as chemistry, physics, engineering, life sciences, meteorology, agribusiness, astronomy, climatology, seismology and others.

"The [supercomputer boost] brings the ability to enable technologies that will generate more jobs, create more companies as well as more social development to Brazil. We need science and technology working shoulder-to-shoulder with all the ministries," science and technology minister Marcos Pontes said, in the ceremony that announced the expansion of Santos Dumont on Monday (25).

The LNCC had been struggling to maintain Santos Dumont, due to a budgetary crisis in the Rio de Janeiro state government, who could barely afford the electricity required to keep the supercomputer on. The power bills consumed about 80 percent of the institution's budget at the time.

The funding cuts led to delays in several projects, including research initiatives relating to the genetic mapping of the zika virus.

Minister Pontes repeated a discourse in the event that announced the supercomputer boost that "science and technology should not be treated as spending."

"Science and technology is the foundation of all developed countries, you can see that is a common theme for all of them, it is what provides the fastest and most accurate return. When they head into crisis, they invest in science and technology," he said.

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