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European weather simulation gets a boost from Cray upgrade

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Cray has signed a $36 million contract to upgrade and expand its XC supercomputers and  Sonexion storage system at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). When the project is completed, the enhanced systems will allow the numerical weather prediction and research centre to improve its weather forecasts.

Located in Reading in the United Kingdom, ECMWF develops and runs global models and data assimilation systems for the dynamics, thermodynamics and composition of the Earth’s fluid envelope and interacting parts of the Earth system. ECMWF is an intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 European states. It provides weather services with medium-range forecasts of global weather to 15 days ahead as well as with monthly and seasonal forecasts. The centre also provides longer-range forecasts for up to a year ahead and runs the EU-funded Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring and Climate Change Services.

ECMWF Director of Research Erland Källén said: ‘This upgrade will help us to improve the quality of the service we provide to our member and co-operating states. It will enable us to develop high-resolution ensemble forecasts that improve the prediction of severe weather events in the medium range, up to about two weeks ahead. It will also make it possible to introduce improved data assimilation methods, allowing us to use more of the available Earth system observations, and to produce more detailed and better-quality atmospheric composition forecasts as well as high-quality climate datasets (re-analyses).’

In June 2013, Cray announced it had been awarded a contract to provide ECMWF with two XC30 supercomputers and a Sonexion storage system. Under the terms of this new contract, Cray will expand and upgrade the supercomputers at ECMWF to XC40 supercomputers, which will include next-generation Intel Xeon processors. ECMWF will also receive additional Sonexion 2000 scale-out Lustre storage, and a 32-node XC40-AC system with the next-generation of the Intel Xeon Phi processor code-named ‘Knights Landing’.

‘We are very pleased that ECMWF has made the decision to upgrade its Cray systems, which will provide the organisation’s researchers and scientists with even more powerful, computational tools for advancing global numerical weather prediction,’ said Catalin Morosanu, Cray’s vice president of sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. ‘The ability to easily and cost-effectively upgrade our systems is an important design element of Cray supercomputers. This allows our customers to have a lower total cost of ownership of their systems over time and quickly be able to deploy the latest and most-advanced technologies. We are proud of our relationship with ECMWF and the amazing work they do, and we are excited our partnership will continue well into the future.’

Consisting of products and multiple years of supported service, the contract to upgrade and expand the Cray systems at ECMWF is valued at more than $36 million. System deliveries are expected in 2016.