The $1 billion Met Office supercomputer dispute between Atos Services UK and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and The Meteorological Office has reached a settlement before making it to the court.

Both parties confirmed the settlement, though its terms are not being disclosed.

The legal challenge posed by Atos was the result of a February 2020 announcement that the Met Office would spend £1.2billion (US$1.56bn) on building the world’s most powerful supercomputer dedicated to weather and climate.

Atos and competitor Microsoft both submitted a final tender to build the supercomputer, however, it was announced in February 2021 that Microsoft had been awarded the contract.

Atos then filed a legal challenge against the decision, based on claims that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Met Office had violated procurement law when they had deemed Atos’s tender to be non-compliant.

According to court documents, the main complaint was over a disagreement about the technical requirements of the test supercomputers and development supercomputer which were to be built alongside the main supercomputer. All three were required to be ‘architecturally equivalent’, however, there was some dispute over the exact meaning of ‘architecturally equivalent.’

BEIS and the Met Office claimed that the Atos tender had proposed the use of different processors in the supercomputers. Atos, however, claims that there were errors in the evaluation of their tender, that the BEIS had been interpreting ‘architectural equivalence’ in a different way to Atos, and that the final decision had actually been made based on ‘undisclosed requirements.’

Met Office
– Met Office

The case was due to come to court on May 9 but was resolved prior to that date.

A representative for BEIS said in a statement sent to The Register: "The proceedings regarding supercomputer procurement have been resolved with no admission of liability from any party.

"The agreement allows the Met Office to concentrate efforts on delivering the infrastructure necessary to keep the UK at the forefront of global weather and climate science leadership."

The Microsoft supercomputer will, according to HPCwire, comprise four Azure-integrated HPE Cray EX supercomputers based on AMD “Milan” Epyc processors, and will be capable of storing nearly four exabytes of data.

The first generation of the supercomputer solution will have a combined total of over 1.5 million processor cores and over 60 petaflops of aggregate peak computing capacity. Microsoft says it will deliver further upgrades in computing capability over the next ten years.

Unrelated to the court case, it has also been revealed that the CEO of Atos has resigned.

CEO, Rodolphe Belmer, left his position after the company confirmed it was exploring a two-way split of operations. Atos is considering dividing the company, with Digital, Big Data, and Security businesses becoming a separate unity known as ‘Evidian’, while the remaining units become Tech Foundation Co (TFco).

The parts of Atos that could become Evidian turned over $5.12 billion in sales during 2021. The new split-off would be run by Phillippe Oliva and will employ 59,000 people, while TFco will continue to be run by Nourdine Bihmane.

Belmer told journalists yesterday that the restructuring was the board’s decision. The company added that “taking note of this evolution, Mr. Bellmer considered that he had no choice but to resign."

Belmer’s exit (Bexit?) will take effect on September 30.

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