Atos Wins £24M Settlement over UK Met Office Weather Supercomputer Contract

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The Financial Times reported today that the government of the UK has paid a £24 million settlement to Atos over an £850 million contract awarded to Microsoft for a weather supercomputer to be used by the UK’s Met Office.

“The French company, which was the only other shortlisted bidder, filed a lawsuit in May last year alleging breaches in the government’s obligations under the public procurement regulations but it was settled before it went to court…,” the FT reported. “The terms of the settlement were not disclosed at the time but the latest annual report of the (UK’s) Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (which along with the Met Office was sued by Atos) reveals there was a payout of £24mn to Atos without an admission of liability.”

“The Core Department and Met Office entered into a settlement agreement with Atos IT Services UK Ltd for joint payment of £24.0 million to Atos, without admission of liability, in relation to a procurement exercise undertaken by the Met Office, an executive agency (trading fund) of the Department,” the department said in its annual report. “In a separate agreement with the Met Office, the Department undertook to contribute £20.7 million to this settlement with the balance of £3.3 million being paid by the Met Office.”

The HPE-based supercomputer will be accessed by the Met Office via the Microsoft Azure cloud platform and is expected to be one of the most powerful HPC systems built for weather forecasting and the study of climate change. The total contract won by Microsoft is $1.56 billion over 10 years.

While it’s been known since last year that the matter had reached an out-of-court settlement, it was not known how much money Atos will be awarded.

According to the FT, Atos charged that the UK government wrongly rejected the Atos bid as non-compliant because Atos’ proposed development computer used different processors than the main supercomputer. At issue is the Met Office’s requirement that the main system and the development systems be “architecturally equivalent.”

The FT reported that Atos “claimed that the government made ‘obvious errors in the evaluation’ of the bid.

Atos said in a statement that it was “pleased to have resolved this matter.”

In an insideHPC story last May, we reported that “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.”