There's a Blue Storm on the horizon

Big Blue has made a deal with a European weather forecasting center that includes the deployment of one of the biggest IBM SANs ever installed.

Come rain, wind, sleet or snow, IBM Corp., will be helping Europe get its five-day forecasts over the next two years.

IBM has struck a supercomputer contract with the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which includes the deployment of one of the biggest IBM SANs ever installed.

The system, dubbed "Blue Storm," will store 1.5 petabytes of data by its completion in 2004.

Blue Storm will be an IBM eServer p690-based system will provide the ECMWF with weather information from the early warning of severe storms and floods to the navigation of sea vessels and everything in between.

The storage component of Blue Storm will be made up of FAStT500 storage servers, SAN fabric and IBM TotalStorage Enterprise Tape Drive 3590 systems.

Managing the system will not be a walk in the park, but IBM said its High Performance Storage System (HPSS) software for data management will help the weather watchers wrangle the tsunami of data that awaits them once Blue Storm is up and running.

IBM said HPSS is designed to move large data objects across networks at high speed between supercomputers, disks, and tape libraries.

Peter Ungaro, vice president of High Performance Computing at IBM compared HPSS to Tivoli's Storage Manager, but on a larger scale. "HPSS is a data management subsystem that rides on top of all the data," Ungaro said.

Ungaro said the system will require a management staff in the double digits once it is complete.

Enterprise Storage Group analyst and founder Steve Duplessie said IBM's HPSS enables some of the fastest storage arrays to date.

"They have been able to push I/O rates through the stratosphere," he said. "[Blue Storm uses] a ton of Linux, doing massively parallel processing. They really did need the fastest disk arrays available to feed them otherwise all that compute power would sit idle."

Duplessie said Blue Storm could possibly be the highest performance SAN on record upon its completion.

ECMWF's researchers will access Blue Storm via IBM IntelliStation workstations running Linux, while researchers throughout Europe will access the system over a wide-area network (WAN).

According to Dr. David Burridge, director of the ECMWF, Blue Storm will provide the computational power to make major advances in analyzing data gathered from satellite observation systems, more accurate forecasting and improved advance warning of severe weather events worldwide.

Blue Storm will include an IBM eServer Cluster 1600 supercomputer built with multiple IBM eServer p690 enterprise UNIX servers. According to IBM, it will deliver a system capable of achieving seven teraflops, or seven trillions of calculations per second. The supercomputer will be expanded in stages and, when fully installed in 2004, will achieve more than 20 teraflops.

Blue Storm will use currently available IBM products initially, but the two-year project will also use future Fibre Channel disk and tape technologies over the course of its rollout.

The ECMWF is an international organization that predicts weather and climate changes for 22 European countries including Spain, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom.

IBM lays claim to six of the top 10 supercomputers in the world according to the "TOP500 Supercomputing Sites" list is compiled and published by supercomputing experts from the University of Tennessee and the University of Mannheim.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Linux clears scalability, security hurdles for Weather.com

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

Webcast: IBM's storage plans

IBM customers get more backup and recovery options

Dig deeper on Storage vendors

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