National Weather Service migrates to Linux-based IBM workstations

The new workstations will make for speedier weather forecasting

The National Weather Service (NWS) is replacing outdated Unix-based computers from Hewlett-Packard Co. with new IBM IntelliStation computers running Linux.

The move should speed up the delivery of watches and warnings during severe weather by 400%, from 247 seconds to 62 seconds, and reduce the agency's hardware maintenance costs by 40%, according to Chuck Piercy, program manager for the NWS's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System.

"That's pretty impressive," said Bob Lenard, director, IBM eServer Workstations. "When you're dealing with weather, any improvement helps. It's about saving lives and saving property, and that's what they're in business to do."

Powering the improved forecasting capabilities is a technology infrastructure based on more than 900 Linux-powered IBM IntelliStation M Pro and Z Pro workstations, which have replaced proprietary HP-UX systems, Piercy said. The workstations are powerful desktop computers used for running graphic-intensive applications, Lenard said.

In addition to the IBM IntelliStation workstations, the weather service has also deployed 160 IBM xSeries servers.

Piercy said the total cost of the deployment, which will be completed by the end of January, was $3.3 million.

The IBM IntelliStation workstations are deployed in 137 locations nationwide and are used by meteorologists and hydrologists. The workstations pull data from an infrastructure of Intel-based Linux servers, which receive data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's satellite broadcast network.

"Linux became a great enabler, in that it allowed the NWS to move from mid-'90s proprietary technology into the mainstream operating world of Linux," Lenard said.

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