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How the Met Office WOWs with Microsoft Azure

The UK Met Office uses Microsoft Azure to underpin its new weather IoT platform, the Weather Observation Website (WOW) service – providing APIs both for ingestion of environmental data from myriad sources, and for reuse by third-party developers and citizen weather enthusiasts.

Case study key facts

Organisation The Met Office – a ‘trading fund’ of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Industry Weather forecasting and climate research
Current goals The UK’s Met Office has relaunched its Weather Observation Website (WOW), providing a scalable platform not only for an online service that collects and presents weather data, but also for providing access to that data through open APIs.

Through these interfaces, the WOW platform is supporting the Met Office’s strategy to shift its operating model. It will support evolved ‘information supply chain’ roles for the Met Office as a curator of weather data (fostering an ecosystem of third-party developers building on that data), and as a provider of services in its own right.

Current approach The Met Office has re-engineered, and is augmenting, WOW to run on the Microsoft Azure Platform, working to agile approaches in close partnership with development specialist DotNet.
Outcome In its initial re-launch phase, the Met Office has focused on replicating the functionality of the former WOW website (albeit now in a much more scalable fashion on Azure). It’s already seen reduced requirements for development resources, and simplified operational support requirements and resources for WOW.

API capabilities (already implemented ‘under the hood’ in the current WOW release) will be unveiled in subsequent releases. Ultimately, the Met Office will measure the success of WOW in terms of the impact of, and innovation applied in, the reuse of WOW’s weather data.

Tools and suppliers used Microsoft Azure

Organisation background

The Met Office was originally set up in 1854 as an experimental department under the UK Government’s Board of Trade, with the aim of forecasting the weather to protect the nation’s ships at sea. The organisation is now world-renowned as a leading provider of weather and climate services, and is constituted as a ‘trading fund’ of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (where it operates on a commercial basis under set targets).

The Met Office uses more than 100 million weather observations a day, an advanced atmospheric model and high performance computing to create world-leading physical simulations of the future state of the atmosphere. These are used to create millions of weather forecasts for a range of customers including the UK Government, general public, businesses, and armed forces; as well as allowing other private sector organisations to produce forecasting services.

The Met Office employs more than 1,700 people at 60 locations throughout the world.

Project background

The project to re-architect WOW was initiated by the Met Office’s current Director of Technology, Charles Ewen, who initially joined the organisation in 2011 to run its digital operations.

The Met Office’s combined forecasting and climate research workloads require it to implement High Performance Computing (HPC) on a large scale (for both compute and storage). It already runs a world-class infrastructure for that side of its business, and this experience shapes how it sees any ‘move to the cloud’. Its operational HPC environment is shaped by the timeliness demanded by weather forecasts and vast scale. Because it needs to operate a world-class datacentre to accommodate its HPC environment, the balance of on-premise versus off-premise looks different for Ewen than it does for many other organisations: “We make increasing use of cloud-based technologies, however we are often limited by the sheer scale of the data that the supercomputer produces,” he says.

The Met Office operates high-scale HPC to an operational discipline that it sees as different to academic HPC operators. This is less to do with the workload and more to do with the high availability and timeliness demanded by its operational weather mission. “It can be challenging to operate cutting-edge supercomputers at ‘five-nines’ levels of service,” added Ewen.

Today, the organisation’s public cloud initiatives are typically in the area of customer delivery technologies (as opposed to the computational science side of the business).

Implementation characteristics and status

Launched in 2011, originally on Google’s Cloud Platform, WOW provided a means by which people could submit weather observations (ranging from high quality daily climate observations, to one-off quick observations and photos of weather phenomena) to a site that was designed to engage people with the science of forecasting, as well as providing an additional resource for forecasters themselves.

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The post How the Met Office WOWs with Microsoft Azure appeared first on The Advisor.

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