Expect €5m cloud, says European Centre for Midrange Weather Forecasts

OK sunshine, but put it on-prem

Few things are certain in computing, but the shift to the white and fluffy seems irrepressible. One prediction the European Centre for Midrange Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) seems confident in making, then, is that it needs to up its game in cloud computing.

In a pre-qualification round of procurement, ECMWF said it is looking for suppliers for a production-quality, general-purpose, on-premises cloud computing environment: its Cloud Strategy. According to a tender document, it wants to get responses from the widest possible range of potential suppliers who might meet the requirements.

“ECMWF, and [its] partners, hold an ever-growing data store for meteorological applications and so [it has] started the pilot phase of the ‘European Weather Cloud’ to make it easier to work on weather and climate big-data in a cloud-based infrastructure,” the tender said.

“It is probable that other production systems will, in due course, be added, increasing demand, and resulting in significant scale-up requirements, and further enhanced resilience requirements,” it said.

Once the Cloud Strategy is defined, the organisation hopes to issue invitations to tender during the second half of 2021, ready for the systems deployments in its new twin data-hall Bologna Data Centre in Italy, which is set to be ready during the second quarter of 2022, it said.

The contract is set to be worth €1m a year, which could span five years including extensions. But the figure does not include consolidation of other ECMWF systems on to the cloud, which would inflate this figure.

ECMWF is based in Reading, the UK home to Microsoft, Oracle and other familiar tech outfits. Here, it has built a high-performance computing facility, the latest phase of which involves two identical 50 tonne + Cray XC40 clusters, each with 20 cabinets of compute nodes and 13 of storage. The bulk of the system comprises compute nodes with two Intel Xeon EP E5-2695 V4 “Broadwell” processors, each with 19 cores.

According to ECMWF: "Four compute nodes sit on one blade, sixteen blades sit in a chassis and there are three chassis in a frame. This gives a maximum of 192 nodes or 6,912 processor cores per cabinet".

Although a European project, the ECMWF is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 states, and is not directly governed by the European Union, and, as a result, has avoided the impact of Brexit, the all-consuming portmanteau which has pre-occupied British politics for the last four years. Nonetheless, a new facility in Bonn, Germany, is set to be built between 2023 to 2025 that will feature a 16-storey glass tower, while the outpost in Bologna, Italy is already under construction. ®

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