Since the decision in June 2017 to locate ECMWF’s next data centre in Bologna, Italy, ECMWF has worked closely with the Emilia-Romagna Region and the Italian Government to bring the project to life.

The new data centre will replace the current facility in Reading, UK, and will help the Centre to achieve its strategic goal of producing forecasts with increasing fidelity on time ranges up to one year ahead.


Preparations for the Centre’s new data centre progressed apace during 2018, with staff from all departments and external contractors contributing their expertise.

Following months of complex preparatory work, the project entered a new, two-year phase in the autumn that will include building work on the data centre itself, purchasing and installing ECMWF’s next supercomputers, and migrating the Centre’s computing and data handling operations. The transition to this phase was marked with an event on the site of the new data centre with representatives from ECMWF’s Member States, the Emilia-Romagna Region and the Italian Government.

A tender for the new high-performance computing facility that will be installed in Bologna was issued in November.

By the end of the year, the Centre had a high-level conceptual design for the future IT and systems architecture. The design aims to improve the resilience of the information system as well as rationalise the logical and physical infrastructure and day-to-day administration and support of the forecast delivery services.

In designing the solution, the Centre considered how users currently conducted their work, likely future workflows taking into account the merging of the Linux clusters with the HPC facilities, and the anticipated increases in dataset size. All common services necessary to ensure that ECMWF staff and Member State users can connect to services in Bologna with ease and work efficiently are integrated in a common managed layer based on cloud computing concepts. This “service layer” shares common online storage with the HPC and the Data Handling System (DHS), facilitating the sharing of data and products between the services.

A modern server provisioning and configuration infrastructure will be deployed in Bologna, facilitating the roll-out of the data centre. This infrastructure will allow for more frequent updates to bring new features to users quickly and ensure that security patches are rolled out promptly and consistently across whole servers.

December 2017

Hosting agreement ratified by Italian Parliament.

May 2018

Data centre design approved by Emilia-Romagna Region and building tender released.

October 2018

Head of Data Centre Operations appointed, to take up post in April 2019.

November 2018

Invitation to tender issued for ECMWF’s next high-performance computing facility (HPCF).

‘ECMWF in Bologna 2020’ event brought together representatives from ECMWF and its Member States and the Emilia-Romagna Region. The programme incorporated a media briefing, virtual tour and presentation of architectural plans, as well as a panel discussion on the topic of big data.

December 2018

Construction work started in earnest, following the signing of the Bologna data centre contract by the Emilia-Romagna Region.

High-level design of future IT systems architecture completed.

ECMWF registered as an international organisation operating in Italy.