Whatever the weather: the story behind MONC

Posted by s.aragon on 8 August 2017 - 9:00am

MONC By Selina Aragon, Communications Officer, in conversation with Adrian Hill, Met Office

This article is part of our series: Breaking Software Barriers, in which we investigate how our Research Software Group has helped projects improve their research software. If you would like help with your software, get in touch.

Adrian Hill, the project’s primary contact, talked to us about the usefulness of the Institute’s collaboration with the Met Office and EPCC to promote the uptake and development of MONC. Adrian especially highlighted the invaluable help he received from Mike Jackson, Research Software Engineer, in setting up the basis for what has progressed into successful software with unexpected benefits and long-term value, used by researchers as well as PhD and masters' students.

Collaborative efforts

In collaboration with EPCC (Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre) and the Met Office, the Institute provided help to rewrite the Large Eddy simulation model (LEM) as its successor, the Met Office NERC cloud (MONC). MONC is a complete re-engineering of LEM, which preserves LEM's underlying science. MONC has been developed to provide a flexible community model that can exploit modern supercomputers such as ARCHER, the UK's national supercomputing service, and the Met Office's new £97 million super-computer. MONC is designed to use over 100,000 processors and has already been tested on over 32,000 processors.

This collaboration had five primary objectives including an Institute technical review of MONC and helping prepare a virtual machine to run the software,  as well as providing advice on how to support LEM users moving to MONC and writing a code contributions policy for developers. Throughout 2016, our Research Software group also helped MONC evaluate and improve the community readiness of its atmospheric simulation software. The Institute’s assistance in developing training materials and a MONC virtual machine was, according to the team, ‘fundamental to the role of MONC to the community’ and ‘immensely beneficial’.

Feedback and outcomes

The feedback from the MONC project has been very positive overall. The project reports our input as “game-changing” in that it saved them time developing software. Adrian also commented in an interview with the Institute:

“The help of the Institute would be very useful to other projects in our field, especially those that are open sourced and are building their communities. I personally appreciated the help of the SSI [Software Sustainability Institute] as it helped us make sure that our code is as good as it can possibly be.”

The virtual machine has been used by over 40 researchers, and the work has helped to attract three new developers to the project. Training has also been provided, and seven PhD projects and three MSc students, based at the Met Office, are already using MONC for their research. Adrian expects further development now that users have started interacting with the software.

If you'd like free help to assess or improve your software, why not submit an application into the Institute's Open Call?

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