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Met Office Gets UK's Most Powerful Computer To Forecast Weather

The Met Office has taken possession of the nation's most powerful computer yesterday at a cost of £30 million and capable of crunching through 1 trillion calculations per second.

The unnamed computer is 15 times more powerful than the previous record holder, "Hector" (High End Computing Terascale Resources) from Edinburg University and a staggering 37 times faster than the previous second most powerful computer from Reading university.

Manufactured by IBM, the Power6 system P computer will be ranked in the top 20 fastest computers worldwide but will still be 20 times less powerful than IBM's Sequoia which was unveiled back in February 2009.

Sequoia will be used by the S Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to crunch data related to US Military atomic arsenal and weapons.

Met's new toy has the processing power of 100,000 PCs, consumes 1.2 megawatts of energy and will occupy an area bigger than two football pitches while providing meteorological data to a group of 400 scientists from the UK and around the world.

Housed in Exeter, at the Met Office HQ, it will hopefully help the organisation provide with more accurate weather forecasts when it will be in full operation in 2011. The question remains though - and it is not one that will be answered soon - can it play Crysis? Tough then that it takes two months (yes 1440 hours) to boot up.

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Our Comments

The PC has a peak performance of 1 Petaflop and has 15 Terabyte worth of memory. It will almost certainly be using a special version of Linux and will rely certainly on 8- to 64-core POWER6 4.2 or 5.0 GHz via 8-core processor books with 4MB L2 cache per core and 32MB L2 cache per chip. This is not the usual chip you will find in your computer.

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Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.