IBM sells off cloud business – yes, we mean Weather.com
What better time for private equity to capitalize on changing climate
Weather.com is an IBM business no more. Big Blue has sold off the unit to private equity.
While the terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed, IBM on Tuesday said the vast majority of The Weather Company’s assets – including its mobile and web properties; its forecasting services for media and aviation industries; and its advertising platform – have been snapped up by Francisco Partners.
IBM will still have its Environmental Intelligence Suite (EIS), which is separate from Weather.com and can be used by enterprise customers to do things like factor in the threat of weather-related natural disasters when planning site construction and similar work.
EIS is powered by the geospatial foundational AI model we looked at during IBM's WatsonX launch this year. Big Blue says it intends to continue tapping into The Weather Company’s data to power EIS.
Accelerating weather forecasting
IBM acquired The Weather Company in 2016 for $2 billion. At the end of that decade, Big Blue talked up a supercomputing cluster it had built to handle The Weather Company's workloads: this was a machine packed with IBM Power9 processors and Nvidia’s V100 accelerator chips.
If that combination sounds familiar, it’s based on the same architecture IBM used to construct the US Department of Energy’s Summit and Sierra systems.
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IBM’s weather modeling was among the first to be optimized to run on GPUs. As our sibling site The Next Platform reported at the time, hardware acceleration in weather modeling and prediction is far from the norm due in part to the sheer volume of legacy code involved.
This combination allowed the IBM and The Weather Company to achieve resolutions down to 3km using a fraction of the hardware that would otherwise be required by a CPU-only system.
That particular facet no doubt makes The Weather Company’s models attractive, as it means they should run quite efficiently on modern GPU clusters. By our estimates it would take fewer than a dozen Nvidia DGX H100 systems to achieve performance on par with that 84-node Power9 system we mentioned earlier.
As to what Francisco Partners intends to ultimately do with The Weather Company, you can probably guess. The PE fund said it will focus on making the most of three core areas: The Weather Company’s website and app, as used by netizens; its forecasting services for businesses and other orgs; and its advertising platform.
Tellingly, and with tropical storm Hilary soaking southern California this very week, Alan Ni, a partner at the private equity outfit, expressed an opportunity to capitalize on the “growing volatility of weather."
Capitalizing on climate change? We could be snarky here but as profiteers of disasters and other bad news ourselves, who are we to judge? ®