Virgin supplies Ethernet connectivity to Met Office supercomputer

The Met Office has awarded the contract to provide Ethernet connectivity for its next-generation supercomputer to Virgin Media Business

The Met Office has awarded internet services provider (ISP) Virgin Media Business the contract to supply the connectivity behind its £97m Cray XC40 supercomputer.

The Met Office's 140-tonne Cray system contains 480,000 CPUs, which collectively give it the power of 100,000 PlayStation 4 consoles, while two petabytes of memory, equivalent to 120,000 iPhones, mean it will run 23 trillion calculations per second, 18 times faster than its current set-up.

The Met Office hopes the UK economy could realise over £2bn of wider socio-economic benefits from its new machine, with climate change research and mitigation in mind.

The XC40 relies on fast, secure and reliable connectivity that can keep up with the vast amount of data it will generate.

“To power some of the world’s most intelligent technology we need a robust network that can weather all kinds of storms,” explained Dave Underwood, deputy director of the Met Office’s high-performance computing programme.

“Virgin Media Business created a bespoke solution for us which meets the complex needs of this supercomputer and will ensure we can sustain quality weather and climate services.”

The ISP will supply two diverse, high-capacity optical networking circuits capable of moving large volumes of data between the Met Office’s Exeter HQ and the separate facility it has built to house the supercomputer, 2 kilometres away, which also houses a collaboration space for industry stakeholders, research scientists and startups.

Each circuit will carry six 1Gbps, one 10Gblps and one 100Gbps Ethernet services.

The Met Office said the reliability and capability of the Virgin Media Business next-generation, fibre optic network was identified as a key element in securing the contract.

Virgin Media Business executive sales director Rob Orr commented: “We are honoured to be the force fuelling one of the world’s highest performing supercomputers. The Met Office provides such a crucial service to this country and it is essential they have the right technology and infrastructure in place to fulfil their needs now and in the future.”

The contract was procured and awarded under the government’s Network Service Framework (NSF), which went live across the public sector in July 2015.

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