In the last few days, the UK media has gone mad on the fact that the UK Meteorology Office (Met Office) is getting a new 'toy' (yes, that's really what it was called on some channels!) The interest in this story from a mainstream perspective is primarily aimed at the fact that the UK might have more accurate weather forecasts, more often and for a longer period... but if you're interested in the tech, there was scant information in any of the news broadcasts, I'll try and fill in the bits that were missing.
Firstly, what have they got now? Well, they are currently running an IBM Power7 system running AIX and coming in at around 140 Teraflops. It's processors are Freescale ARM based QorIQ that maintain PowerPC compatibilty and the whole thing came online in 2009.
Now, according to all of the information available, they are returning to Cray (which they have used a couple of times in the past) for their new system and this time are going to use their XC40 range. This system is based on Intel Xeon processors and the really exciting thing for me, is that this will be yet another supercomputer running Linux (The Cray Linux Environment is SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with their own Compute Node Linux (CNL) kernel.) It's rated at 16 Petaflops and will come online between 2015 and 2017 which should mean it will go straight into the Top 10 of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, for now anyway! It will cost around £97 million and will weigh 140 tonnes.