NOAA Contracts With 3 Major Cloud Providers on Big Data Project


More than four years after starting the Big Data Project, NOAA signs with three cloud companies to provide free access to its wealth of data.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a new milestone in its big data program, enabling more access to its ever-growing troves of data in the hopes of sparking new economies and a better understanding of our environment.

The agency launched the Big Data Project as a way to push the petabytes of data it collects daily out to people who could use it. The program is based on the idea that NOAA—and the Commerce Department in general—collects the sort of data that is of interest to researchers and entrepreneurs alike.

NOAA penned a deal in 2015 with five cloud service providers to develop a pipeline for its data to be stored in those cloud providers’ systems, then be made available to the public at no cost. While the partners are not allowed to charge for access to the data, they could charge for value-added content, in much the way weather data is used by industry today.

On Thursday, NOAA announced awards to Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft under multiyear contracts to host NOAA data for public use.

“The Big Data Project’s cloud service providers have shown incredible commitment to open data principles, and they clearly understand the value of NOAA's data to their customers and to the Nation's economy,” Ed Kearns, acting chief data officer at the Commerce Department, said in a statement Thursday.

Through the partnership contracts, the cloud providers will help NOAA meet one of its core missions: to push relevant data out to those who can use it.

“Not only will this improved accessibility enhance NOAA’s core mission to protect life and property, but it will also open up new and exciting areas of research at universities and significant market opportunities for the private sector,” said acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs.

“Technology is transforming how we understand our ever-changing world,” said Kate Brandt, sustainability officer at Google. “Through the NOAA Big Data Project, Google Cloud can help researchers, innovators, and organizations analyze data to tackle a range of environmental challenges—regardless of their size or computing power.”

While component agencies like the National Weather Service have been working with industry for some time, AWS Vice President for U.S. Government Dave Levy pointed out that the scale of data being distributed through the Big Data Project is only achievable though a cloud infrastructure.

"As customers gather more data about Earth, cloud offers new opportunities to understand our world and contribute to sustainable future,” he said. “As a result, researchers are gaining greater access to NOAA data, and speeding up the time to discovery, at a fraction of the price and time previously required."

“Improving the world around us starts with a better understanding of it, and pairing NOAA’s world-class data sets with world-class cloud computing power offers a big step forward,” Microsoft Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa agreed. “We’re thrilled to see our technology play a role in democratizing access to accelerate scientific discovery and prioritize the protection of natural resources.”