Bureau of Meteorology's new supercomputer inches closer

Bureau issues formal request for tender, details benchmarking process

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a formal request for tenders for the provision of its new supercomputer.

The BoM last year approached the market with a request for proposals for the upgrade of its Oracle/Sun Constellation HPC system and funding for a new supercomputer was included in the federal budget this year.

A request for tender for the supercomputer was published yesterday.

The amount of funding for the new super computer was not disclosed in budget papers.

A review of the BoM's capacity to respond to natural disasters released in December 2011 noted that the agency's current supercomputer 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.

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."

In August the bureau announced it had boosted the link between its two data centres from 80 gigabits per second to 200Gbps as it prepares for the new supercomputer. 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 tender documents state that the initial petascale supercomputer system is to be installed in the 2015-16 financial year for "numerical weather prediction systems (APS3, APS4), environmental and earth system modelling and data assimilation systems, satellite data processing as well as other computational and data-intensive activities in operations and development until January 2019".

Installation of that supercomputer would be expected to begin in September next year and be finished within 11 months, tender documents state.

A second, "mid-life" petascale supercomputer system would be provisioned in calendar year 2018 for "numerical weather prediction systems (APS4, APS5), environmental and earth system modelling and data assimilation systems, satellite data processing as well as other computational and data-intensive activities in operations and development until at least July 2021."

Its installation is scheduled to begin in January 2018 and be finished by November that year. The bureau is expecting an overlap of up to 12 months between the two systems.

As part of the tender process, the bureau last month issued benchmarking code for prospective tenders. The bureau's benchmarking suite tests the performance of systems for weather prediction, climate modelling and oceanographic modelling. The results are combined into a single 'Sustained System Performance' (SSP) score.

The bureau accumulates data at a rate of around 1 terabyte per day, and it expects that that volume will grow by 30 per cent every 18-24 months, tender documents state.

Tenders are due by 5 November.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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