IBM to build weather supercomputer in Europe

If there's one thing that the English care about, it's the weather, and IBM hopes to make forecasting better than ever thanks to a new supercomputer the company is building in the UK for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

          If there's one thing that the English care about, it's the weather, and IBM hopes to make forecasting across not only Britain, but throughout Europe, better than ever thanks to a new supercomputer the company is building in the UK for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).

          Known as Blue Storm, the new supercomputer will be built over a two-year period, and is expected to have five times more computing power than all the ECMWF's current systems combined, says Peter Ungaro, vice president of high performance computing for IBM. The ECMWF does medium-range forecasts -- between three and 10 days out -- over 22 European countries.

          Blue Storm will be based around IBM's eServer p690, formerly known by its Regatta codename, and will be built out over the next two years, Ungaro says. "The first system will be housed in roughly 50 refrigerator-sized (server) racks," Ungaro says. "By 2004, we will have increased peak processor capability by roughly threefold, without increasing the floor space (used) by threefold."

          Blue Storm will start with 1000 Power4 processors running AIX, IBM's version of Unix, Ungaro says. When it is finished, it will hold 1.5 petabytes of data, the same as 75,000 20G-byte hard drives, and will be capable of more than 20 trillion calculations per second, Ungaro says. The 130-ton supercomputer will be 1700 times more powerful than Deep Blue, the supercomputer that defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, IBM says.

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