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September 17, 2018

Met Office Back in the Market for a New Supercomputer

Meteorological agency open to on-premises, external or hybrid arrangement for post-2020 programme

By CBR Staff Writer

The UK’s Met Office, which provides the country’s National Severe Weather Warning Service and advices the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is back in the market for a new supercomputer, just 21 months after wrapping up a project that saw three Cray XC40 supercomputers installed across three sites.

Two of the Met Office supercomputers on site in Exeter underpin operational weather forecasts, allowing the Met Office to analyse 215 billion global weather observations daily, while the third in a nearby data centre provides R&D capabilities. They are each capable of running 14,000 trillion calculations per second.

Installation of the final Met Office supercomputer was successfully wrapped up in December 2016 (unusually for a government IT project, on time and on budget), with the project creating the world’s twentieth most-powerful supercomputer.

Now, the Met Office wants more firepower, saying it is now planning the “next phase of supercomputer investments” which has been titled “Met Office’s HPC Post 2020” and is exploring all options on the table, including cloud-based access to high performance computational capabilities, an on-premises offering or a hybrid one.

14 Month Supplier Engagement Period Starting in 3, 2, 1…

“The next step consists of engaging with the supercomputer market through this Prior Information Notice (PIN)… it is expected that suppliers will wish to establish an initial dialogue with the Met Office starting at the Supercomputing Conference, Dallas, USA in November 2018”, the Met Office said on a European tenders page late last week.

The notice represents the start of 14-month period of early supplier market engagement, it added, saying it is “is interested in speaking to companies involved in all aspects of the supercomputer supply chain.”

The Met Office, which Computer Business Review has contacted for further comment, did not specify a budget in the PIN.

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met office supercomputerMet Office Supercomputer: Options are Open

“Please note that due to the criticality of the supercomputer system to the Met Office’s operations, a major part of the requirement is to have a highly available and stable system. Furthermore, the HPC programme consists of a wider ecosystem at the Met Office which is not captured under this PIN but will be a significant factor in planning for the next phase,” the agency said.

The Met Office is looking at “all options” available to it for the next supercomputer, including provision hosted entirely within the existing Met Office data centres; a supercomputer provision hosted entirely externally to the Met Office and a supercomputer provision with a hybrid hosting arrangement, it added.

See also: UK Puts Arm into Supercomputer Arms Race

Of the recent Cray XC40 installation, the Met Office says the computational capacity allows it to improve forecasting at airports, provide sophisticated modelling related to flooding, more detailed information for energy markets and new climate impacts research to inform long-term planning.

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