Debian Linux cluster beats supercomputer in tsunami warnings

Philippine weather service finds forecasting cheaper with Linux

The cluster works as part of the Philippine Interactive Communications Weather Information Network (PICWIN) which provides weather forecasting and an automatic warning system.

PICWIN was designed by the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), part of the Philippine government's Department of Science and Technology.

All of the equipment used for PICWIN's data gathering comes off-the-shelf, including laptops and mobile phones to transmit weather data such as temperature, humidity, rainfall, cloud formation and atmospheric pressure from field stations via SMS into PAGASA's central database.

"When all data is collected, both locally and internationally through the Global Telecommunications System (GTS), the cluster computer ingests all of this data and computes forecasts using models of the atmosphere.

"These are then analysed by weather forecasters and converted into meaningful information. Outputs are graphically summarized in our Web site in real-time," Pineda explains

The operational cluster is designed to calculate 3-day weather forecasts twice daily, and uses a variety of free and open source meteorological software.

"All that we are running is open source, like the German High Resolution Model (HRM), MM5, ETA. What was even surprising to us is that Intel FORTRAN is also free of charge, including all the math libraries and MPIC system," he said.

"We are quite happy with the results so far, considering we haven't applied assimilation of our radar and satellite products. We believe that as soon as these things are done, we can become even more confident in our long-term forecasts," Pineda said.

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Andrew Hendry

PC World


Brent Bice


Comparing apples to oranges

At the risk of being called biased, didn't anyone notice that they were comparing a linux cluster on bright, shiny new equipment with fast CPUs to a cluster on dated IRIX gear? This might have been more interesting if they compared their Debian cluster with one of the SGI offerings using similar equipment (say, an Altix ICE cluster).

It's not exactly shocking to find that a cluster of 3 ghz itaniums beats a cluster of 400 mhz mips systems. :-)



I use Red Hat OS,will happen thoes things?

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bbice, yep, I agree with you. Considering that the SGI Origin2000 in PAGASA uses 8 x R10000-400MHz processors with only 2GB of memory and 5 x 4.5GB disks in an Origin200 cabinet, it will definitely lose to the new tech cluster (aggregate 16 Processors rated in gigahertz and multi-core, how many gigs of memory, disk I/O in the 3++ Gb/sec).

Now, was that fair?

By the way, SGI has support, quality assurance, etc. I wonder what type of PCs were used in the Debian Cluster? Although it is true that SGI does cost more, I would rather buy their stuff than risk having a crash using some "off-the-shelf" from God knows where stuff then telling the Filipino People... "Ooops, I made the wrong forecast..."

I forgot to mention that this was installed in 1998 when PCs were still running Pentium 2 processors as Performance PCs...



R10000-195MHz. Sorry about the mistake... (Veeeerrrryyy far from 2++ GHz Multi-Core Xeon Processors...).... Now is that a fair comparison?

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