Cloud Platforms Unleash Full Potential of NOAA's Environmental Data

  • Google Cloud
  • Microsoft

WASHINGTON — The vast collection of environmental data held by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) will be more accessible than ever before through new collaborations with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Microsoft. Under these new agreements, commercial cloud platform providers will generate untold opportunities for scientific and economic advances by exponentially expanding, rapid and reliable, no-cost access to NOAA data for the public. NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

NOAA has entered into separate multiyear contracts with AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft to provide the public with cloud-based access to the agency’s environmental data sets, in accordance with the agency’s full and open data policies. NOAA generates tens of terabytes of data every day from satellites, radars, ships, weather models, and other sources. 

“NOAA’s wealth of world-class environmental data will now be more accessible through partnerships with commercial cloud providers, which will allow the agency to better manage a rapidly increasing volume of data going forward,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “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.”

Culmination of NOAA's Big Data Project

This is the latest milestone of the ongoing NOAA Big Data Project, which seeks to remove obstacles to public use of the agency’s data by combining three powerful resources: NOAA's expansive collection of high-quality environmental data and expertise; the vast infrastructure and scalable computing capabilities of our industry collaborators; and the innovative energy of the American economy.

The NOAA Big Data Project leverages operational public-private partnerships with the cloud computing and information services industries to avoid the costs and risks associated with data access services. Under the contracts, the cloud platform providers can charge for compute or other services related to additional processing of NOAA data, but are required to provide free and open access to the data itself.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of NOAA’s efforts to broaden access to its data resources and facilitate full and open data access to foster innovation. Rather than utilize a traditional, large-value contract award, these contracts represent a unique relationship with the Cloud Service Providers: NOAA contributes its high-quality environmental information and scientific expertise, and the CSPs provide their cloud storage and technical capabilities, improving the public's ability to use these data without being charged for cloud storage or data access.

“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,” said Ed Kearns, Ph.D., acting chief data officer at the Department of Commerce. 

Following an initial research phase that began in April 2015 and operated under Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, the contract awardees were selected through a Request for Proposal conducted in spring 2019. The NOAA Big Data Project is part of the Department of Commerce 2018-2022 Strategic Plan priority to reduce extreme weather impacts by improving access to NOAA’s data and strengthening partnerships with America’s weather industry and other members of the weather, water, and climate enterprise. The NOAA Big Data Project also 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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