This year's meeting of the ECMWF Member State Computing Representatives (MSCR-29) took place
from May 17 – 19 at ECMWF in Reading. The meeting was attended by 17 Member States
and Co-operating States, another two remotely by Webex, and 15 people from ECMWF itself.
High on the agenda were the plans for a new data centre and the investigations that
should lead to a new supercomputer in 2020. There was also a presentation on the status
and plans for the next reanalysis (ERA5). And of course there was extensive attention for
ECMWF's software and for developments in Member States.
Furthermore, there were presentations on web activities and services, security
activities, and the re-engineering of product delivery.
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).
A new data centre
As ECMWF's current data centre facility at their headquarters in Reading does not offer
the required flexibility for future growth and changes in high-performance computing (HPC)
technology, the Centre is looking for a new site to operate their HPC and other computing
facilities. Earlier this year, the Council decided that the Italian proposal for a new
ECMWF data centre in the Tecnopolo di Bologna best answered their requirements.
However, the final decision still has to be taken by the Council, later this year.
On 22 June, at the 90th session of the Centre's Council, the decision was taken
to approve the proposal by the Italian Government and the Emilia Romagna Region to host
ECMWF’s new data centre in Bologna.
Because the large volumes of data that go back and forth between the HPC and other
computing environments at ECMWF the proposition is to relocate the entire data centre to
the new site. As the contract for the current Cray XC40 ends at the end of September 2020,
the new operational service is planned to be fully up and running by August 2020.
This means that in Reading only some network equipment will remain and the Data Centre
will be decommissioned.
Some of the consequences of the choice are
The entire MARS archive and the contents of ECFS should be transferred from Reading
to the new centre. The archive contains currently 230PB and is growing rapidly.
Developments in storage technology can not keep up anyway with the growth of the
amount of data that is stored. So the Centre is investigating ways how to reduce that.
To avoid transfer of large volumes of data back and forth between Reading and
the new data centre by the research department, the desktop environment will move to
Linux/VDI. Tests with VMware solutions, that has improved considerably over the last
year, suggest that “everybody seems to like it.”
The next HPC
ECMWF is currently investigating possibilities for the successor of the Cray XC40 in
2020. This should lead to an ITT in the second half of 2018 and a contract for the new
HPC mid 2019.
Earlier this year, ECMWF invited 1714 external users to fill in a questionnaire on
the current HPC and possible wishes for the next one. If you still have useful input for
the process, please let ECMWF know.
ERA5 overview, status and release plans
Last year, the production of the next reanalysis (ERA5) has started. Compared to ERA-Interim,
the resolution is higher, output is hourly and uncertainty estimates have been added.
In the 2nd or 3rd quarter of this year the period 2010 – near-real-time should
become available. Next, 1979 – 2009 should be ready in the first half of 2018 and
by the end of 2018 the full period 1950 – near-real-time is expected to be ready.
For GRIB handling ecCodes has now officially replaced GRIB_API. There is
still limited support for GRIB_API, e.g. tables and urgent bug fixes, but this will end
in the autumn of 2018.
Migration of the GRIB handling should be completely transparent. The ecCodes library
supplies the same routines and utilities as GRIB_API.
Migration of BUFR handling from BUFRDC will require more work. The BUFR handling
in ecCodes works similar to GRIB handling.
If you like to discuss with other users of the software, ECMWF is happy to create a
platform on their web services to share your experience.
MIR — the new interpolation package
The new interpolation package MIR is now almost feature-complete with Emoslib and
is undergoing very thorough validation and testing.
The first priority is now to replace Emoslib, but suggestions on enhancements from
users are also welcome.
ECMWF invites alpha-users, especially specialists with
specific requirements (e.g. Hirlam rotated lat/lon grids), to contact them and help with
Within a few months Metview 5 will be released. The differences with Metview 4 will not
be as large as between Metview 3 and 4, but new features warrant a new major version number.
These new features include a new layer management and more control over the different
layers; support for colour gradients; support for Flexpart (a Lagrangian transport and
dispersion model suitable for the simulation of a large range of atmospheric transport
A new E-learning module on Metview is coming soon.
The Pythonic future
Software Support is aware of the growing popularity of Python among researchers. Python
(2) interfaces are already provided for individual packages, but ECMWF is actively looking
for ways to build a better Python experience, with external help.
The aim right now is a high level interface implemented as a Python version of the
Metview Macro, that is easily installable (e.g. through pip or anaconda).
At the end of last year, ECMWF did a survey on the use of their software packages. They
contacted more than 4000 users of whom 351 responded.
In general, ECMWF are happy with the results, but some areas have been identified
where progress can be made, e.g. creating awareness for ecCodes, and documentation. And they
will try to follow up with individual users who left interesting input and contact details.
Full details on the survey are available in the presentation.
If you feel something is missing in the survey, ECMWF welcomes your suggestions for
extra questions in the next edition.
ECMWF software packages are being updated twice per year (May, November).
The aim is to update compilers once per year, in November.
After the upgrade of the OS on ecgate from RHEL6.4 to RHEL6.8 a decrease in perfomance
of MARS was noticed, which eventually was traced back to this upgrade. Therefore, in June,
ecgate will move to RHEL6.9 which should resolve these performance issues.
HPC OS upgrade
Early 2018 the OS of the Cray XC40 will be upgraded because Cray stops active development
of the current version (CLE 5.2). The new version will also no longer support the current
versions of the Cray compilers. This upgrade might have similar impact on the software as
a whole new HPC.
The compilers will be upgraded first, while the old versions are still available. The
OS will follow later. More detailed plans on the upgrade will be annouced later this year.
The MARS service has known several performance issues lately. ECMWF is aware of this. It
should improve with the new OS on ecgate, but also new servers have been added to the HPC
to deal with the requests and extra storage is underway.
And it might help to investigate whether you can optimise your requests. User Support
will be happy to assist.
Web API keys
Web API keys used to be valid indefinitely, but from now on, an expiration date of one
year has been added. You will be notified one month in advance.
ECMWF has started a project to produce e-learning modules. At the end of the summer, 12
modules from various training courses will be publicly available, including several major
software packages like Metview, MARS and ecCodes.
Developments in Member States
Some of the topics that are under investigation or development in several Member States
Open Data and the use of Cloud Services, also for dissemination to clients.
The use of Containers as a method of virtualization. The next version of Cray OS
supports this and User Support will investigate the possibilities.
Outsourcing of (parts of) the IT infrastructure, just as KNMI did with SSC-Campus.