• United States

Supercomputer serves up the weather

Jun 26, 20032 mins

* National Weather Service gets new supercomputer from IBM

The National Weather Service recently signed an outsourcing agreement with IBM for a large supercomputer to be used for weather forecasting.

The supercomputer consists of 44 IBM eServer p690 “Regatta” servers, with a total of 2,572 processors, attached to an IBM TotalStorage FAStT500 Storage Server with 42 terabytes of storage capacity. This doubles the size of the supercomputer cluster currently in place. 

The supercomputer, known as “Frost” and “Snow,” performs 450 billion calculations per second. The “Frost” portion handles actual weather forecasting, while Snow is used for modeling developing weather applications. Frost and Snow will gather more than two weather observations a day. The supercomputer replaces a 786-processor IBM System Parallel (SP) installed in 2000.

Used to predict hurricanes as much as five days in advance, the supercomputer will cost $224 million over nine years, according to IBM claims, and be four times faster than any other supercomputer in use today.

The computer is installed at IBM’s e-business hosting center in Gaithersburg, Md., and will deliver processing power and data to the National Weather Service over an ultra-high-speed network.

The supercomputer cluster by 2009 will perform at over 100 teraflops, or 450 billion calculations per second. IBM compares that performance to a person with a calculator, who would take 80 million years to rack up the number of calculations a 100 teraflop computer can perform in one second.

With IBM’s hosting service, the National Weather Service doesn’t need to provide physical space at its facilities.