The Met Office’s plans to build a new £97 million supercomputer – the Cray XC40 High-Performance Computer (HPC) – are in full swing in Exeter, and are expected to reach completion early next year.
Part of the new facility will be sited at a purpose-built structure at Exeter Science Park, and part at the IT Halls of the Met Office Headquarters on the outskirts of Exeter, close to the M5.
This exciting new supercomputer will provide innovative weather forecasting and climate change predictions. It will be up to 15 times more powerful than the existing system employed by the Met Office, with 120,000 times more memory than a high-grade smartphone!
When fully operational, the supercomputer will be able to do more than 20,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second…
It is hoped that the world-class complex will attract businesses from around the globe who want to work with the Met Office and provide a plethora of economic benefits to the city of Exeter.
The third and final phase of the systems integration testing is currently ongoing, and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2017 – in time for the supercomputer’s official opening.
The first phase of the project involved the replacement of the old hardware. The second phase focused on delivering additional capacity, and went online at the end of February.
The final phase is expected to be online by March 2017; however, deputy director of the Met Office’s High-Performance Computing Programme Dave Underwood commented that there is a “distinct possibility” that it could be much sooner due to speedy integration!
In addition to predicting weather and climate change, the supercomputer also aims to improve UK resilience to extreme weather conditions, reduce travel disruptions and strengthen food production.
This will bring major benefits, nationally and internationally. Mr Underwood describes is as a “huge opportunity not only for the Met Office and the UK more widely, but also for the South West region.”
“We are bringing online the largest operational high-performance computer in Europe. It will be in the top 10 in the world. We have it in three IT halls and each of them individually is in the top 50 HPCs in the world. The one at Exeter Science Park is the 11th largest in its own right.”
The benefits we further endorsed by Exeter City Council chief executive Karime Hassan, who described the supercomputer as a “world-class asset”.
In terms of economic development, it is hoped that the huge complex will attract business from around the world who are looking to work with the Met Office to create commercial applications using huge datasets produced by its incredible processing capabilities.
The collaborating centre next door to the supercomputer is set to become a hub of activity when it opens in 2017 – attracting people from all over to use this powerful, intelligent technology.
As Mr Underwood comments: “We expect it will be a very dynamic space. We are in discussions with a number of organisations, including Exeter City Futures, about how we can exploit environmental information to the benefit of communities both here in the South West and globally.”
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