Atos Takes Fight Over Met Office-Microsoft $1.6B Weather HPC Contract to UK High Court

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Atos’ fight over the UK Met Office awarding a $1.56 billion contract to Microsoft to build the world’s biggest weather and climate supercomputer will soon go to the UK High Court, according to a story in the Financial Times.

Atos, the leading Europe-based HPC vendor,  argues that is was excluded unfairly from bids for the contract to build the system, intended for more accurate weather and storm predictions, for selection of defenses against flooding and to study climate change impacts.

According to Microsoft, the new system will be housed within the Azure cloud computing platform and will integrate HPE Cray EX supercomputers from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), plus a Microsoft high-performance active data archive system and other Azure cloud technologies, along with an end-to-end managed service. The Met Office expects the system, which will replace a Cray HPC system, will boost the organization’s compute capacity 6x and that it will be one of the world’s 25 most powerful supercomputers.

According to the FT, “Atos, which is suing the Met Office and (UK) Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), alleges that there were breaches in the government’s obligations under the Public Contract Regulations 2015. The government is defending the lawsuit. Atos claims its bid was wrongly excluded as ‘non compliant’ with the technical requirements stipulated in the tender, according to particulars of claim filed at the High Court. It wants the High Court to rule that it should have been awarded the contract and is seeking unquantified damages.”

“The effect of those breaches is extreme,” the FT reported Atos to allege in its claim. “The claimant has been unlawfully deprived of the contract award, despite having the most economically advantageous tender.”

The Met Office has denied Atos’ charges.

Meanwhile, another British newspaper, The Sun, has reported on delays in the installation of the new system, originally scheduled for July, due to chip supply chain and pandemic-related problems

“In light of the ongoing supply chain issues being faced by many suppliers,” The Sun quoted the Met Office, “we have recently worked with our current supercomputing suppliers to ensure our existing supercomputing capability remains fully supported, resilient, and able to provide all our services, including those critical to life, well beyond September 2022 and up to the point the new system comes online.”