Bureau of Meteorology prepares for new supercomputer

Upgrades to two 100Gbps links between data centres

Image: Bom.gov.au.

Image: Bom.gov.au.

The Bureau of Meteorology has boosted the link between its two data centres from 80 gigabits per second to 200Gbps as it prepares for the installation of a new supercomputer.

The federal budget included an undisclosed amount of funding for the new supercomputer. The supercomputer, to be used for weather forecasting, will operate for five years from July 2016.

The funding includes a midlife upgrade two-and-a-half years into the projected operational life of the supercomputer.

A review of the BoM's capacity to respond to natural disasters released in December 2011 noted that the agency's current supercomputer had a five-year lifespan, meaning it was due to be upgraded in 2013-14.

"This will be the subject of a bid for capital estimated by the Bureau to be in the order $38 million on a like-for-like basis, including $14 million for data storage," the report stated.

The BoM last year approached the market with a request for proposals for the upgrade of its Oracle/Sun Constellation HPC system.

It will be eighth upgrade of the bureau's supercomputer since 1988, bureau's director, Dr Rob Vertessy, told Senate Estimates hearings earlier this year.

"Typically, they are replaced every three to six years, It has varied a little bit through time depending on the nature of the technology, but it is an ongoing process," Vertessy said.

"If Australia wants to have its own ability to do its own weather forecasting, a supercomputer is an essential capital investment."

BoM RFP documents released last year stated that a potential supplier could either provide a single supercomputer capable of at least 600 teraflops or two identical supercomputers each capable of at least 1.2 petaflops.

The current bureau supercomputer is hosted a data centre to the west of Melbourne.

"The data link upgrade and supercomputer project are elements of a significant IT transformation being undertaken by the bureau at this time, including the replacement of weather forecasting and flood forecasting systems, the development of a new storm surge forecasting system and the introduction of several new water information products and services," Vertessy said in a statement issued today.

"The bureau's weather forecasting process generates more than a terabyte of data each day and this will grow by a factor of 10 within the coming decade.

Read more: Budget 2014 - Govt funds new Bureau of Meteorology supercomputer

"Producing a weather forecast involves the collation of massive streams of weather data from satellites, planes, ships and ground stations from around the world and this data is fed into complex mathematical models that run four times per day to predict hourly variations in the weather for the week ahead."

The upgrade, carried out by Nextgen under a multi-year managed services contract, comprises two 100Gbps links between the bureau's two data centres.

"The dual path system is highly robust with high capacity and low latency links into two data centres, giving the bureau a level of service and reliability to rival the fastest of networks," Nextgen Group CEO, Peter McGrath, said in a statement.

Vertessy also said today that the bureau would release a "weather app" for Windows and iOS by the end of the year.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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