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Linux Shines on National Weather Service

Rain, Sun, Wind, Calm... It's All Good to the Penguin

  • December 9, 2003
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

In the second installment of a multi-part deal with IBM, the National Weather Service (NWS) has dropped its HP-UX-based RISC workstations in favor of IBM IntelliStation PCs operating Red Hat Linux.

Almost 1,000 meteorologists are using the new Linux-based workstations at NWS facilities nationwide, said Bob Lenard, IBM's director for eServer workstations during an interview. The Linux PCs are also outfitted with IBM's NVidea graphics package.

IBM Global Services (IBM-GS) provided a bit of assistance in migrating the NWS' client-server application for predicting the weather from HP-UX to Linux, according to Lenard.

The NWS, though, did most of the work. They accomplished the migration very rapidly and cost effectively, Lenard maintained.

The NWS is using the workstations as part of its Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), in conjunction with satellite and Doppler radar data and a Unix-based IBM supercomputer that models atmospheric changes. IBM eServer xSeries servers are being deployed for archiving weather data.

This past June, IBM announced that the NWS had activated a pStation supercomputer and eServer workstations, in the first phase in a multi-year contract. IBM and the NWS have declined to disclose the financial value of the new Linux deal.

According to Lenard, though, the NWS is achieving a 40 percent savings in hardware maintenance, along with a 400 percent increase in application performance from this project with IBM. Refresh rates have declined from 247 seconds to 62 seconds. As a result, weather data is being updated much faster.

In May of this year, local meteorologists used the new Linux-based workstations to send out frequent updates about a series of tornadoes and flash floods that hit 19 states.

NWS now plans to use the Intel-based PCs to help meet goals for 2004 that include providing the public with tornado warnings in under 12 minutes and flash flood warnings in under 53 minutes.

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