Cray to deliver Bureau of Meteorology's new supercomputer

The Bureau of Meteorology will be able to deliver more accurate, more certain and more frequent weather forecasts thanks to a 1660 teraflop supercomputer, which will eventually have its speed boosted to 5 petaflops.

US company Cray was today revealed as the winner of the contract to supply the BoM's new supercomputer.

The new Cray XC40 supercomputer will be around 16-times faster than the Bureau's existing 104 teraflop system.

A Cray Sonexion 2000 storage system will deliver more than 12 petabytes of storage for the new supercomputer.

The Bureau late last year said that it was accumulating data at a rate of around 1 terabyte per day, and it expected that that volume would grow by 30 per cent every 18-24 months.

The new system is expected to be delivered in two phases: The first phase is expected to be completed in mid-2016 and the potential second phase would be completed in 2019, according to Cray.

The second phase would boost the system's capacity to over 5 petaflops.

The initial build phase for the project will commence in October this year.

The new system will allow the Bureau to run eight times as many daily forecasts and deliver a five times improvement in global model resolution, according to Cray.

It will be the Bureau's eight supercomputer replacement process.

The organisation's first supercomputer, commissioned in 1988, had a speed of 130 megaflops.

The announcement of the US$53 million (AUD$77 million) contract follows the start of the formal tender process last year.

As part of the tender process, the BoM issued benchmarking code to test prospective replacement systems.

The benchmarking suite tested the performance of systems for weather prediction, climate modelling and oceanographic modelling.

The Bureau in 2013 initially approached the market with a request for proposals to replace its Oracle/Sun Constellation HPC system.

The 2014-15 federal budget included funding for the new BoM supercomputer.

"In 2014-15 the Bureau will continue its implementation of the Australian Government’s response to the Review of the Bureau of Meteorology's capacity to respond to future extreme weather and natural disaster events and to provide seasonal forecasting services, which was released in 2013," 2014-15 budget documents stated.

"Delivery of this initiative will continue to improve the Bureau's capacity to respond to extreme weather events such as floods, bushfires, storms and tropical cyclones, particularly when these events occur simultaneously and in multiple locations."

"We want to ensure the Bureau is well positioned to continue to provide essential forecast and warning services," Bob Baldwin, parliamentary secretary to the environment minister, said in a statement issued today.

"The Bureau's services are vital to the economic livelihood of this nation, including for the construction, resources, agriculture and marine industries and those who keep our international trade routes open.

"Our nation's defence forces depend on a wide range of the Bureau's products, ranging from specialist forecasts for pilots to ocean forecasts for naval operations."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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