Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Two NOAA WP-3D Orion Hurricane Hunters collecting weather data.

NOAA WP-3D Orion Hurricane Hunters collecting weather data.

By Anne Altman

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was created officially in 1970, its roots go back more than 200 years. The agencies that came together to form NOAA represent some of the oldest federal agencies. So much history, so much research, so much science, so much data…so little time.

Every day, NOAA gathers more than 20 terabytes from Doppler radar systems, weather satellites, buoy networks and stations, tide gauges, real-time weather stations, ships and aircraft. That equates to creating more than twice the data contained in the United States Library of Congress – every day. Yes, data is our greatest natural resource, but like any natural resource, its power is only useful if it can be refined.

In a bold move, NOAA today announced a Cooperative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) with IBM and others to help bring NOAA’s data to the cloud where it can be refined by developers, scientists, researchers and others, spurring new capabilities and applications. This news comes on the heels of IBM’s groundbreaking strategic alliance with The Weather Company to integrate real-time weather insights into business to improve operational performance and decision-making.

By sharing NOAA data in the IBM Cloud, our ecosystem of partners, developers and customers will have the means to not only apply analytics, but also develop new apps with our digital innovation platform Bluemix to garner even greater value from the information.

According to Joshua New, a policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation, an agency like NOAA can rely on cloud to “help reduce the bottleneck effect that limited government IT infrastructure can have on organizations and businesses that rely on government data.”

Like many weather organizations in the private sector, NOAA publishes weather data in summary today, with some latency. As part of the CRADA, IBM can help NOAA publish this data with almost no latency. The faster IBM, and in turn, The Weather Company and others can access that data, the more value that can be generated for those with a need to consume it and act upon it.  The CRADA model allows NOAA to explore what works from a cloud perspective before taking a deep dive. They can approach iteratively, start with a few large data sets and allow IBM and others to determine how the data gets out in the public domain.

Anne Altman, General Manager, U.S. Federal, IBM

Anne Altman, General Manager, U.S. Federal, IBM

Cloud is the logical choice for NOAA given its elastic nature to scale up and down, and to provide tremendous efficiencies. It can help unlock the abundance of data in a traditional IT environment where only a small fraction is presently available for public consumption. Like so many enterprises with a long history, moving to the cloud can certainly be transformative, but they don’t have the luxury or the simplicity of born on the cloud entities that can start from scratch.

As the Obama Administration’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget estimates that about $7.3 billion will be spent on cloud computing, federal agencies are focused on solutions that are secure, reliable and integrate easily with existing systems – a perfect recipe for hybrid cloud that can connect multiple cloud environments and/or connect a cloud environment with an existing IT system. Hybrid could prove to be the best option for NOAA to weather all the possibilities of making real-time analysis of data.

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