U.S. buys weather supercomputer with twin backup

Forecasters say duplicate system needed to ensure continuous uptime

The U.S. has upgraded the supercomputer used to develop weather forecast models, a system so critical to meteorologists that the government has bought a second, identical system as a backup.

This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) system, which went online in August, is compromised of "Stratus" and its backup, "Cirrus," two separate supercomputers with about 5,000 IBM Power6 chips running AIX operating systems.

Housed at separate locations, the two computers run as "perfectly symmetrical pairs," and if Stratus fails for any reason, Cirrus is designed to take over in a matter of minutes, said Ben Kyger, director of central operations for NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Protection.

Weather forecasters rely on the models produced by this system, and if there was ever an interruption "you're not going to have a forecast -- or you are going to do it without model guidance, which is like going back to the Stone Age," Kyger said.

Stratus and Cirrus were delivered under a $180 million contract that NOAA has with IBM. It replaces a Power5 based system, which also had a backup.

The new system has the capability of running at about 70 TFLOPS (trillion calculations per second), which puts it somewhere near the 50th most powerful computer in the world.

It has about four times the power of the previous system.

In contrast, IBM is planning to build a 20 PFLOP system for the U.S. A petaflop is 1,000 trillion (one quadrillion) sustained floating-point operations per second.

The Stratus/Cirrus system will allow scientists to improve the accuracy of the forecast by processing more information, as well as improving the resolution or finer details of weather conditions in smaller areas.

However, those improvements aren't turned on simply by a hardware upgrade; they are more evolutionary, Kyger said.

Stratus/Cirrus will be delivered as part of the final phase of a nine-year contract with IBM.

Separately, Cray Inc. said today that it has signed a $40 multi-year contract to provide the Korea Meteorological Administration with a Cray XT5, which uses Linux and Advance Micro Devices (AMD) Opteron chips.

That system is expected to have a peak performance of 600 TFLOP, which would make it one of the fastest systems in the world.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags supercomputersserversIBMbackuphpcCrayUSA governmentTop500

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Logitech Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?