News

Weather centre uses strong authentication tokens

Ian Grant

Weather mapEuropean Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is replacing a proprietary authentication system with a token-based system that will allow 3,000 users in 28 countries easier access to its two 155-server IBM supercomputers at its international hub in Reading, Berkshire.

The new system, which cost £350,000, will save an estimated £250,000 in running costs over its expected life of 10 years.

The old system, installed in 1995, had become increasingly expensive to maintain, said Didier Garçon, network analyst at ECMWF. The life span of the old tokens was three years, but is around six years for the new ones, and the centre will no longer have to pay to issue new tokens.

Systems integrator Sysec Solutions supplied the new system. ECMWF selected the ActivIdentity/Sysec proposal over others from Vasco, RSA, Verisign and Secure Computing. The new system includes the ActivIdentity 4TRESS AAA Server plus ActivIdentity Keychain Tokens that generate a random one-time password for strong authentication for their systems.

ECMWF, which receives about £30m per year from its member countries, produces weather forecasts from eight to 15 and 30 days ahead and seasonal forecasts six to 12 months ahead. These complement national weather services' short-range and climatological work. Data comes from terrestrial observations, satellites, buoys, ships and aircraft for processing in Reading. The centre is increasingly concerned with predicting extreme weather that could affect areas as small as 20 square kilometres.

Weather prediction takes massive computer power, Garcon said.


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