NWS getting out of commodity IT through cloud, shared services

Thursday - 9/12/2013, 7:56pm EDT

Iftikhar Jamil, associate CIO for weather, NOAA

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The National Weather Service recently migrated its high performance computing to a new capability in a private cloud.

Instead of running its own hardware and software, NWS moved to a managed service from IBM under a $19 million-a-year contract.

"We have more than doubled our capacity from 90 terabytes to about 213 terabytes a second. This is potentially a game-changer what we are looking at to be able to provide better services," said Iftikhar Jamil, the associate chief information officer for weather at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We want to be able to do complex computations at a much faster rate, and this is the capability that will provide more accuracy, higher fidelity and in a faster processing time so people will see the results faster."

Jamil, whose position used to be known as the NWS CIO, said under the contract IBM will upgrade the high-performance computing capabilities every two-and-a-half years.

Moving high-performance computing to the cloud is one of several technology capabilities that the weather service is upgrading.

Jamil said NWS is part of the broader Commerce Department effort to move commodity IT to shared services, many times run by bureaus with expertise in that specific area.

For example, the weather service is charged with building the dissemination-as-a-service capability for all of Commerce.

"Our intention is to basically set it up, get it up and running and offer it as a service for the NOAA enterprise," Jamil said. "We are building that at the beginning stages of it. There will be some small [procurement] actions coming out over the next few months or a year or so that people should keep an eye out for."

He said the dissemination-as-a-service is focused on getting weather alerts out as soon as possible.

Jamil said there are many different ways to deliver those kinds of warnings, whether through radio or television broadcast or cell phones, and other avenues, the goal is communicate with the entire community easily and quickly.

NWS also will be a customer of Commerce bureau cloud providers.

Jamil said the goal is for the service to focus on mission areas and get out of the commodity IT services.

NWS moved to the Google email and collaboration platform in the cloud, which replaced about eight separate email systems, about two years ago.

Jamil said the move to cloud is one of several of his priorities.

He said the cloud is part of the broader effort to move to a common IT infrastructure to gain further efficiencies.

A third priority is further improve NWS's cybersecurity.

Along the lines of cybersecurity, Jamil said he's focused on mission assurance.

He said the goal is to ensure NWS has the tools and capabilities necessary to serve its customers, which includes IT security.

"I'm more focused on enabling IT on how it was able to support what we needed to be done," he said.

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