Highlights from MSCR, May 2016
This year's meeting of the ECMWF Member State Computing Representatives (MSCR-28) took
place from May 18 – 20 at ECMWF in Reading.
On the agenda were the upgrade of the supercomputer, ECMWF's desktop strategy,
ECMWF Copernicus services and its User Support, ECaccess, ideas on and current
activities in cloud computing, web applications (ecCharts and Web API), software
developments, and the results of the recent MARS survey. Also there was ample
time for the Member States to share developments in their Met Services and their
experiences with ECWMF.
On this page you will find some highlights which might be relevant or otherwise
interesting for KNMI and other dutch users of ECMWF computing facilities. More
details can be found in the presentations, which are available on the Internet
(see the menu on the right).
The Director of Computing, Adrian Wander, started with a general overview of the status
and plans at ECMWF.
Important news is that the contract with Cray on High Performance Computing has been
extended until 30 September 2020, giving the Centre more time to consider relocation. This
means that the upgraded Cray XC40 will be available 2 more years than originally envisaged,
albeit that no extra upgrade of this service has been planned in this period.
The upgrade of the Cray XC30 HPCF
For the second phase of the Cray HPCF contract, the XC30 machines have been upgraded to XC40. To
this end, the Intel Ivy Bridge processors were exchanged for Intel Broadwell processors
and the memory for every node was extended from 64 GiB to 128 GiB. Moreover,
an extra cabinet with 128 nodes was added to each of the clusters. At the same time,
the operating system and compilers have been upgraded. The result will be a performance
increase of approximately 60%.
The Centre was, at the time of the meeting, in the middle of the upgrade. The change
of the processors and increase of the memory of one of the clusters (CCB) had just been
completed, and the system was already up for testing. In June the second cluster was
Messages for the users:
- Executables that have been compiled on one of the XC30 machines will still work
on the XC40. Results are, however, not precisely identical on both machines. Users
are advised anyway to recompile their codes, because the new compilers can make
use of the new features of the Broadwell processors and will generally produce
- The new nodes have 36 cores instead of 24. That means that you can run 50% more tasks
per node. If you do not, you will anyway be charged for using a whole node, so take care
- As the lifetime of the XC40 machine is now longer, ECMWF plans to upgrade the operating
system and compilers more often.
- As always, ECMWF are welcoming your feedback.
More information on the HPCF phase 2 system and the upgrade is available through the
ECMWF User Documentation (see menu).
ECMWF is rethinking their strategy with respect to desktops. The goal is to become flexible
enough to deal with the ever changing world of hardware, software and user demands and
habits, but at the same time keep a high level of security and manage that as efficient
Virtualisation is a key ingredient, but performance issues and the high initial costs
are taken very serious.
ecCodes is a package developed by ECMWF which provides an application programming interface
and a set of tools for decoding and encoding GRIB and BUFR messages. It is an evolution of
GRIB-API and that package has now fully been absorbed into ecCodes. With the exception of
the Fortran-77 interface, the calls and tools from GRIB-API are now available in ecCodes,
with identical names. GRIB-API is still available as a separate package, but in the (near)
future it will not be updated anymore.
Migration of BUFR handling from Emoslib still requires work.
For both GRIB and BUFR data graphical viewers are being developed, based on the data
examiners in Metview.
The old Emoslib still can not be retired. Therefore maintenance is still necessary, and
new features, like the octahedral reduced Gaussian grid, have been implemented.
MIR — the new interpolation package
The new interpolation package MIR is now almost feature-complete with Emoslib. It is
currently being reviewed and tested very thoroughly and comparison with Emoslib will be
the subject of a report.
Metview & Magics
Metview and Magics have been updated. Important for The Netherlands is that they now have
a new set of coastlines in which Flevoland is no longer missing.
A few weeks before the meeting, ECMWF conducted a survey on MARS among all registered
users. This included the self-registered users. The aim of the survey was to investigate
the user satisfaction, also with the new Web API client, and determine whether any actions
Although most users report to be quite happy with the service, but the documentation
might be improved, and the turn-around times are not always appreciated.
ECMWF is still contacting some individual respondents for more information and will
publish the results and conclusions later.