NOAA acquires giant supercomputer for weather forecasting

NOAA acquires giant supercomputer for weather forecasting

The government's chief weather forecasters on Friday announced a nine-year, $224.4 million contract to lease a powerful new supercomputer to improve weather predictions.

IBM Corp. will build a 2,752-processor system for the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Over the first three years of the contract, the system will provide nearly five times the computational power of the center's existing workhorse, NOAA CIO Carl P. Staton said.

The supercomputer will start out with 1.3-GHz IBM Power4 processors, which will give the system a theoretical peak speed of 11.4 trillion operations per second, Staton said. Given the complexity of models NCEP runs, researchers expect the sustained performance of the new system to be roughly 700 billion operations per second, compared with about 150 billion on the centers' current IBM SP.

Unlike today's 2,208-processor IBM SP, which resides at NOAA's computer center in Bowie, Md., IBM will house the NCEP system at its campus in Gaithersburg, Md., and NCEP will operate it remotely from its Camp Springs, Md., headquarters, Staton said.

Under NOAA's road map for the contract, which has a three-year base period and two three-year options, the centers will incrementally upgrade the supercomputer through October 2009 until it is 48 times more powerful than today's IBM SP.

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