NOAA taps cloud providers for data

The agency that provides daily weather data for commercialization officially moves it to the cloud by tapping three of the largest commercial providers.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration signed multiyear contracts with three big commercial cloud providers to simplify public access to its huge sets of environmental data.

Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft cloud will all host NOAA's weather data that supports some its most widely used applications online, the agency said in a Dec. 19 statement.

Under the contracts, NOAA supplies the data and the cloud providers supply the storage. The vendors can charge end users of the data for compute services but public access to the data itself is free.

NOAA collects terabytes of data daily, from sensors, radar systems, satellites, weather stations and other sources. The agency, however, has faced limitations in storage and processing power that had historically meant only a small fraction of its data was ever made public.

By making the data more openly available under the agreements, NOAAA said AWS, Google and Microsoft "will generate untold opportunities for scientific and economic advances by exponentially expanding, rapid and reliable, no-cost access to NOAA data for the public."

The official contracts, said NOAA, are the next step for its Big Data Project to store environmental data on commercial cloud infrastructure, allowing more direct access to the industries that use it.

"Cloud-based storage and processing is the future. 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 Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator in the statement.

NOAA began its initial research phase for the project in April 2015, when it signed collaborative data alliances with AWS, Google, IBM, Microsoft and the Open Cloud Consortium.

AWS, Google and Microsoft were selected as primate contractors for the Big Data Project in the spring of 2019, NOAA said. That project won GCN's Best in Class award for federal civilian efforts in November.

The Big Data Project is part of the Department of Commerce 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, supports the White House's goal of leveraging data as a strategic asset and incorporates many of the practices promoted by the new Federal Data Strategy.

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