Eight months after the UK’s Met Office announced that it was seeking a new supercomputer and began initial market engagement, it now has a significantly clearer idea of what it is seeking and is ready to take the next step as it inches towards procurement, the national weather service said today.
Its core demand: a six-fold increase in computational firepower within five-seven years of a 14-year contract period. No budget was revealed.
The organisation, which is home to the world’s twenty-third most powerful supercomputer (a Cray XC40), began discussions with potential suppliers in September 2018, saying it is assessing three options: cloud-based access to high performance computing (HPC), an on-premises supercomputer or a hybrid approach.
That engagement is now over. With various options dismissed, the Met Office said today it is interested primarily in exploring an “integrated solution including physical hosting and all necessary ancillary infrastructure (encompassing network and mechanical and electrical services), supercomputer provision, data storage and ancillary tools/services.”
The procurement will be for a total service period of up to 14 years (including a technology refresh at the approximate midpoint) and will need to deliver a minimum of a six-times increase in capacity in the first five-seven year period, with the contract is likely to be divided into two lots, a Public Information Notice (PIN) showed.
Before that happens, it is seeking responses to a questionnaire by June 26: “The Met Office is seeking prompt feedback from the market (including operators from the supercomputing, IT, data centre, chip manufacturer, hosting provider, systems integrator, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), storage vendor, interconnect supplier and developer sectors)” it said, in today’s PIN.
The purpose: “to explore what options might be open to the Met Office in terms of innovative proposals offering varying degrees of service delivery integration.”
In terms of provision, the contractor could be a single turnkey provider, or a consortium, the Met Office said, saying it envisions two lots: 1) Integrated supercomputer capacity (physical hosting, supercomputer hardware and network); 2) integrated data processing storage capability (potential physical hosting, hardware and network). It is also interested in finding out if there is market interest in an alternative lot which would cover both the above capabilities, it said.
The Met Office’s existing two supercomputers 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, with their computational capacity used 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.