Met Office scraps chief information officer role to focus on end-users

The Met Office, a user of some of the most advanced IT in the UK, has scrapped the role of chief information officer.

The Met Office, a user of some of the most advanced IT in the UK, has scrapped the role of chief information officer.

John Ponting, who until mid-September was CIO, has become head of legal and procurement services at the Met Office. His CIO role has been split into two end-user-focused positions: a director of production, whose role is to improve services; and a director of science and technology, who looks at new technology and how to apply it.

Ponting, who has spent his career in Met Office IT since graduating in maths, said his CIO role was no longer needed.

The key question for any organisation, he said, is, "At what point does IT cease to be innovative and become a tool of business?"

Ponting said the reason for dividing the CIO role among end-users and not converting it into a chief technology officer role is because it was not seen as a technology-driven post.

"We see IT as a tool rather than as a driver now," he said. "IT is not such a big challenge that it needs to be separately managed. You cannot compare it to finance because technology is just a tool. It is what you do with the information that matters, not the technology."

Some 50% of the Met Office's supercomputing capacity is directed towards climate prediction research, he said.

"Technology is essential at the Met Office because of the real-time nature of what we do - it is time-sensitive and perishable, but IT is used to react - it is not driving the base product."

Ponting's transition to his new role was not sudden. In recent years he has devoted less time to setting out IT direction and has been more involved with legal issues and procurement activity.

He was also responsible for implementing the Freedom of Information Act within the Met Office.


Supercomputer adds capacity

In early 2005, the Met Office accepted the first production NEC SX-8 supercomputer in the world.

This supercomputer provides additional capacity to the NEC SX-6 computer systems used by the Met Office in Exeter.

The two machines are divided into nodes, each of which contains eight processors. The SX-8 has 16 nodes, and there are two SX-6 clusters - one with 19 nodes,and the other with 15. Each SX-8 node is twice as powerful as an SX-6 node.

Read more on Data centre hardware