by Robert McMillan

National Weather Service Outsources Weather-modeling Calculations to IBM

Jul 15, 20032 mins

It turns out that you can outsource the weather.

The National Weather Service (NWS) last month signed a nine-year, $224 million pact with IBM to perform weather-modeling calculations at a hosted IBM facility.

The work of forecasting hurricanes and other storm systems will now be done on a cluster of 44 eServer p690 servers at IBM’s Gaithersburg, Md., hosting center. The cluster is capable of 7.3 trillion calculations per second, or 7.3 Tflops, which would place it in the top 10 on the list of the world’s fastest computers, says Dave Turek, vice president of IBM’s Deep Computing unit. The weather service deal is the first time that IBM has leased exclusive use of a specific supercomputer system.

Kevin Cooley, CIO for the weather agency’s National Center for Environmental Prediction, says the move to IBM came down to price and performance. “We were able to get broader levels of performance over the life of the contract when the system was in a vendor facility,” Cooley says.

IBM will enhance the system’s performance throughout the contract. The supercomputer will achieve 48 times the performance of the current system by the time the lease ends in 2012, according to Cooley. The new machine will perform at 100 Tflops by 2009, IBM estimates. That means the NWS will be able to make seven-day forecasts with the same level of accuracy as its current three-to four-day forecasts, Cooley says.