Weather Service looks for Linux benefits

Agency uses IBM IntelliStation computers to deliver real-time forecasting data

National Weather Service officials say they are deploying hundreds of IBM Corp. workstations running the Linux operating system to save time and money.

IBM IntelliStation computers and IBM eServer xSeries technology are integral parts of NWS' Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), which provides forecasting information and weather alerts about fast floods, tornadoes and hurricanes to local television and radio stations.

Chuck Piercy, AWIPS program manager, said the investment in the Linux-based systems will "reduce system processing time and maintenance costs at the same time" since Linux runs on commodity Intel processors.

The new workstations could give meteorologists and hydrologists 400 percent faster processing speed in delivering watches and warnings during severe weather than the aging Hewlett-Packard Co. systems the workstations replaced, according to agency officials.

"We're replacing mid-1990s Unix workstations that were in need of updating," especially since the agency's applications are becoming more computing intensive, Piercy said.

NWS is deploying 700 IBM IntelliStation Z-Pro dual processor workstations and has upgrade kits for 300 M-Pro single processor systems that were installed for testing, he said. In addition, the agency has installed 160 IBM xSeries servers.

When the Linux migration effort is completed by the end of next month, the workstations will be running in 137 locations nationwide and accessed by meteorologists and hydrologists. The machines pull data from the Intel Corp.-based Linux servers, which receive data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration port satellite broadcast network.

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