European Meterological Institute Launches NEC Supercomputer

By Markus Henkel

July 19, 2007

The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) in Vienna has officially launched a new vector supercomputer. Capable of performing 512 billion arithmetic operations per second, the new NEC supercomputer is 28 times faster than its predecessor, an SGI supercomputer, and is designed to generate weather forecasts more quickly and with greater precision.

On June 19th, 2007, the NEC vector computer SX-8R, which has been in use since February, was ceremonially inaugurated. The installed NEC-SX-8R consists of two nodes, each with eight processors and connected by a high speed interconnect that was specially developed by NEC for that purpose. Each processor is running at 2.0 GHz. Each node achieve 256 gigaflops, for a total of 0.51 teraflops. Dr. Georg Kaindl, manager of the ADV, which is the institute’s department responsible for the operating of the computing centre and the computer network, explained that the uniqueness of the installation was due to the institute’s demanding system requirements. Only about 12 square metres of space was available, Kaindl added, and an expected enhancement of the computing power by a factor of 25 to 30 combined with the need for low energy consumption complicated the process even more.

This was also the main reason why the vector computer was eventually selected. Kaindl admitted that the decision for the new system was eased by the sum of its advantages over its predecessor. The most striking advantages of the NEC machine are its significantly smaller size, it faster performance, and its lower power consumption. Indeed, the new model has enormously enhanced computing power and has reduced the expense of energy and cooling because of its lower heat emission.

For ten years, ZAMG has been part of the ALADIN consortium in which various countries and their weather services are striving to improve and further develop short-term weather forecasting capabilities. ZAMG is a part of the RC-LACE (Regional Centre for Limited Area Modelling in Central Europe) group within the ALADIN consortium. Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania have teamed up to create a scientific network in which about 100 scientists are continuously working on ALADIN-NWP (Numerical Weather Prognosis Project). The director of ZAMG, Dr. Fritz Neuwirth, claimed that weather as a field of research has become so complex that any single regional weather service finds it difficult to provide state-of-the-art service. Consequently, the established cooperation was enormously important. The ALADIN model has been especially useful in the Alps and Central Europe. The ALADIN model, which performs weather forecasting tasks along with ozone and crisis models, runs 28 times faster on the new computer than on the old machine.

The basic idea of the ALADIN project, establishing a cooperation of the national weather services of Central and Eastern Europe for a common benefit, was initiated by Meteo France in 1990. Its tasks are:

  • The operation and maintenance of an NWP system for geographically limited areas. This method only needs moderate computing capacities, but unlike the global ARPEGE model, it provides a magnifying effect.
  • Operating with small model areas and big meshes; it is presumed that the decisive meteorological elements on a fine scale, such as local winds, breezes or thunderstorm lines, are mainly caused by the dynamic adaptation of the air streams to the earth’s surface.
  • The construction of an international NWP system with high standards in which all partners participate effectively and eventually share the common result.

ZAMG’s former system only permitted a resolution of about 9.6 kilometres, which no longer allowed them to be competitive, Neuwirth stated. The new supercomputer enables ZAMG to perform a resolution of 5 kilometres, and is expected to operate with a resolution of 2.5 kilometres in the future. Combined with a reduction of the time intervals between the actual calculations, Neuwirth stated that ZAMG is now able to generate four forecasts per day, instead of the usual two, which is an important improvement in quality for the institute. The institute’s director concluded that by calculating with narrower grid points, using the aforementioned mesh amplitude of 2.5 kilometres, the international accuracy standards would be matched and both present and future cooperation could be implemented.

In the same time period as ZAMG’s upgrade, the French weather service Meteo France acquired an almost identical computer, with respect to the architecture, so that in the future the software developed in a corporate prediction model project can be used more quickly and thus more efficiently at ZAMG. Neuwirth is confident that the new machine will ease cooperation by, for example, integrating the faster AROME weather model used by the French.

With the qualitative improvement in weather forecasting, ZAMG will achieve a higher level of accuracy. This will support the ability of authorities to fulfill their legal obligations in initiating the necessary measures to prevent damage to persons or property in extreme weather situations.

Makoto Tsukakoshi, manager of NEC High Performance Computing Europe Ltd., proudly stated that the ZAMG project demonstrated NEC’s ability to install high-performance computer systems with the lowest power consumption in comparison to other systems.

Initially, ZAMG and NEC have agreed to work together for five years. They would like to extend this cooperation in the future, enabling additional progress in weather and climate research, and providing NEC developers with some direction for improving hardware and software related to the needs of the ZAMG community.


About the Author

Markus Henkel is a geodesist, science writer and lives in Hamburg, Germany. He writes about supercomputing, environmental protection and clinical medicine. For more information, email him at or visit his websites: and

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 13), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue’s max capacity and doubling 2016 attendee numbers), the one Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Machine Learning at HPC User Forum: Drilling into Specific Use Cases

September 22, 2017

The 66th HPC User Forum held September 5-7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the elegant and historic Pfister Hotel, highlighting the 1893 Victorian décor and art of “The Grand Hotel Of The West,” contrasted nicely with Read more…

By Arno Kolster

Google Cloud Makes Good on Promise to Add Nvidia P100 GPUs

September 21, 2017

Google has taken down the notice on its cloud platform website that says Nvidia Tesla P100s are “coming soon.” That's because the search giant has announced the beta launch of the high-end P100 Nvidia Tesla GPUs on t Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Prepares Customers for Success with the HPC Software Portfolio

High performance computing (HPC) software is key to harnessing the full power of HPC environments. Development and management tools enable IT departments to streamline installation and maintenance of their systems as well as create, optimize, and run their HPC applications. Read more…

Cray Wins $48M Supercomputer Contract from KISTI

September 21, 2017

It was a good day for Cray which won a $48 million contract from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) for a 128-rack CS500 cluster supercomputer. The new system, equipped with Intel Xeon Scal Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 13), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Machine Learning at HPC User Forum: Drilling into Specific Use Cases

September 22, 2017

The 66th HPC User Forum held September 5-7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the elegant and historic Pfister Hotel, highlighting the 1893 Victorian décor and art o Read more…

By Arno Kolster

Stanford University and UberCloud Achieve Breakthrough in Living Heart Simulations

September 21, 2017

Cardiac arrhythmia can be an undesirable and potentially lethal side effect of drugs. During this condition, the electrical activity of the heart turns chaotic, Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud, and Francisco Sahli, Stanford University

PNNL’s Center for Advanced Tech Evaluation Seeks Wider HPC Community Ties

September 21, 2017

Two years ago the Department of Energy established the Center for Advanced Technology Evaluation (CENATE) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). CENAT Read more…

By John Russell

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is stepping down after two years to return to Argonne National Laboratory. Kothe is a 32-year veteran of DOE’s National Laboratory System. Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blu Read more…

By Merle Giles

Kathy Yelick Charts the Promise and Progress of Exascale Science

September 15, 2017

On Friday, Sept. 8, Kathy Yelick of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the keynote address on “Breakthrough Science at the Exascale” at the ACM Europe Conference in Barcelona. In conjunction with her presentation, Yelick agreed to a short Q&A discussion with HPCwire. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Pledges Another $300 Million for Post-Moore’s Readiness

September 14, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a giant funding effort to ensure the United States can sustain the pace of electronic innovation vital to both a flourishing economy and a secure military. Under the banner of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), some $500-$800 million will be invested in post-Moore’s Law technologies. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries: 7nm Chips Coming in 2018, EUV in 2019

June 13, 2017

GlobalFoundries has formally announced that its 7nm technology is ready for customer engagement with product tape outs expected for the first half of 2018. The Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This