Bureau of Meteorology closes oldest data center after 46 years – Hardware

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The Bureau of Meteorology has decommissioned its oldest data center after nearly 46 years of service as part of its ongoing multi-year IT transformation project.

In its annual report released earlier this month, the National Weather Agency said its long-running Central Computing Facility (CCF) was “fully decommissioned” in June.

It comes less than a year after the bureau agreed to a two-year, $35 million data center lease with NextDC.

The CCF, which moved to the bureau’s current location in Melbourne in 2004, was a 1520m2 Purpose-built “computer room”, first commissioned in 1974.

It previously housed the office’s major operational computer systems, including those for weather modeling, estimated at around $60 million in 2003.

BoM said the data center closure had “improved office resiliency by removing end-of-life equipment, removing vulnerable systems, and migrating to a modern architecture.”

“In two years, the office’s data center equipment was consolidated from three sites to two by retiring, migrating and transforming 189 IT assets dispersed across 46 systems,” he said.

More than 120 specialists spanning applications, networking, platforms and provisioning, as well as system owners, worked on the project, to minimize operational disruptions.

Although not specifically mentioned in the annual report, the consolidation coincided with the office’s five-year IT transformation project, dubbed “Robust”.

Robust, which was first funded in the 2018 federal budget to bolster the agency’s operating environment in response to a 2015 hack, is now more than halfway there.

Last week, the agency faced questions about the lack of transparency regarding the cost of the project, which was deemed not intended for publication in several budget documents.

BoM CEO Andrew Johnson told the Senate that the no-release label had been an “accepted position of the government” because of the commercial and security reasons involved.

“Obviously we don’t want to reveal to the market the amount of funding and its timing because we believe it will harm our trading position, but also for national security reasons,” he said.

“The third and final installment is starting, and we are obviously in commercial discussions with several players. There will clearly be transparency around this process through a range of mechanisms – we are subject to regular review.”

The annual report also reveals that BoM is in the midst of a mid-term upgrade to its $77 million “Australis” supercomputer, which was first installed in 2016.

The upgrade will deliver a new Cray XC50 and CS500 system over the next 12 months, which the office says is “vital to meet future demands for next-generation digital models.”

“In April, the office received Australis II, a 4.0 petaflop Cray XC50 and CS500 system that will provide double the compute and storage, and improved capacity for more frequent execution of enhanced prediction models,” said BoM.

“The upgrade is an important step in realizing a more secure supercomputing platform for office operations and future service delivery, including through the utility transformation program.”

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