ECMWF signs contract with Atos for new supercomputer

Adrian Gregory and Florence Rabier

Atos Senior Executive Vice-President Adrian Gregory, CEO UK&I, and ECMWF Director-General Florence Rabier signed the contract. (Photo: Stephen Shepherd)

ECMWF has signed a four-year contract worth over 80 million euros with Atos for the supply of its BullSequana XH2000 supercomputer.

ECMWF’s Council of Member States gave the Centre the green light for the deal during its session in December 2019.

The decision was taken after an international tender process in which bidders were assessed against criteria including committed performance, implementation plan, flexibility and risks, quality of technical solution, environmental impact, quality of service provision and support, and price.

The new system will deliver an increase in sustained performance by a factor of about five compared to ECMWF’s current high-performance computing facility.

This will enable a range of advances:

  • increasing the ensemble forecast horizontal resolution from a grid spacing of 18 km to about 10 km, which is expected to significantly improve forecasts of near-surface temperatures and winds
  • increasing the ensemble forecast vertical resolution from 91 layers to 137 layers, in line with the current high-resolution forecast
  • issuing extended-range forecasts daily rather than twice-weekly.

ECMWF Council session December 2019

ECMWF’s Council is made up of representatives of ECMWF Member States and meets twice a year. It gave the deal the go-ahead during its session on 10 and 11 December 2019.

The increased computing capability will also enable the Centre to continue investigative work towards the 5 km ensemble called for by its ten-year Strategy to 2025, and in the field of machine learning in numerical weather prediction.

“Firm footing for success”

Günther Tschabuschnig, Convener of the ECMWF Technical Advisory Committee subgroup that reviewed the Centre’s selection of the high-performance computing facility, emphasised the benefits of the deal with Atos for society.

“One cannot overestimate the importance of accurate weather prediction. This has never been truer than in our current age, as the effects of climate change are increasingly felt. Individuals and societies need ever greater amounts of information to ensure they are prepared,” he said.

“Atos brings an impressive track record of success in this field, and its background in delivering advanced supercomputing solutions to some of the world’s best meteorological services will ensure we are placed on a firm footing for success.”

Atos BullSequana supercomputer

The Atos BullSequana supercomputer. (Image: Atos)

The Atos system will be hosted in the new ECMWF data centre currently being developed by the Italian Government and the Regione Emilia Romagna in Bologna, Italy. It is expected to be fitted in 2020 and to become fully operational in 2021.

Bologna is also the venue of an ECMWF workshop on high-performance computing in meteorology in September 2020, for which registration and abstract submission is now open. For more information on this high-profile biennial event, visit the workshop page on the ECMWF website.

For more information on the supercomputer contract with Atos, see the PDF icon Atos–ECMWF press release.