Thursday, October 19, 2017

European centre for weather forecasts ditches UK for Italian-based data centre

Member States voted and Bologna is set to be the home for the ECMWF supercomputers from 2019.

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) has announced it will move its data centre from the UK to Italy following an international competition to find a new home for the organisation’s supercomputers.

The ECMWF is an intergovernmental body founded in 1975 and supported by 34 states which produces global numerical weather forecasts.

However the organisation is moving its computing infrastructure to Bologna, the ECMWF’s headquarters are to remain in Reading, UK. The data centre is to be delivered to ECMWF by 2019.

The decision to set up a data centre in Italy followed months of internal discussions between members.

Following the discussions, Member States then tasked Director-General Florence Rabier with entering into discussions with the Italian Government with a view to having a high-level agreement.

After further discussions and votes, representatives of ECMWF’s Member States approved Bologna as the host city for ECMWF’s new data centre.

The decision to move the data centre is part of the ECMWF’s ten-year strategy adopted in 2016 sets goals for Earth system modelling at high resolution. It specifies a target of a 5-km grid spacing for ensemble forecasts by 2025, down from 18 km today. An intermediate step will be the implementation of a 9 km ensemble in 2020-2021.

These resolution upgrades will require a new high-performance computing facility with approximately ten times as much computational capacity as is currently available to ECMWF, some of which will come from more processors.

Dr Rabier said: “I am delighted that our Council has decided to support the proposal by Italy to host ECMWF’s new data centre. This new facility will allow us to upgrade our high-performance computing capability to the levels required to continue to advance weather science.

“The decision-making process has been long, thorough and at times difficult, and we have already incurred some delays which could have an impact on our computing capability within the next couple of years.

“We are extremely grateful to all our Member States, who have taken great care to ensure that ECMWF’s best interests would prevail. Of course I want to especially thank the Italian authorities, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that their proposal meets all the required criteria.

“Having our headquarters in the UK and our data centre in Italy will be a new experience which will illustrate perfectly well the truly intergovernmental nature of ECMWF.”

Italian Minister of Environment Gian Luca Galletti, said: “This result is a great success for Italy. The new data centre in Bologna will allow ECMWF to continue its important work in studying weather phenomena as a strategic element for sustainable economic progress and citizen security. Now Bologna is at the centre of the global environmental challenges.

“This will further enhance the skills, the ability to innovate, the attractive pole of environmental data which are the heritage of the city. This is the result of impressive teamwork of many Italian institutions, such as the Ministries of Environment, Education, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Economy and Finance, the Emilia Romagna Region with President Stefano Bonaccini, the municipality of Bologna with Major Virginio Merola, and the Alma Mater University with rector Francesco Ubertini.”