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Daisy Group PLC : Met Office adopts open source software, considers cloud migration

07/30/2013 | 10:31am EDT

The Met Office handles the perpetual task of recording and predicting weather in the UK, which of course generates huge amounts of data, arguably making it the ideal candidate for cloud computing adoption.

However, as V3.co.uk reported last week, it is not quite ready to make the leap to the cloud in the short term, but may well take this approach in the future, once it is a more viable option.

Met Office spokesperson, James Tomkins, explained that they are embracing certain technological innovations, the most significant of which is open source software that technicians are using to manage many of the projects that it is involved with at the moment.

Tomkins pointed out that going the open source route was beneficial because it meant that the Met Office could cut costs and keep in line with government guidelines on spending, while still getting access to the kinds of services that it needs.

On the topic of cloud computing, Tomkins said that the two main prohibitive factors that are currently stopping the Met Office from getting onboard with this type of service are security and cost.

Many larger organisations like this are still sceptical about the ability of third party cloud solutions to offer levels of data protection which are comparable with on-site setups, although there is mounting evidence that these fears are unfounded.

The second issue mentioned by Tompkins relates to the cost of the cloud, since he argues that storing the amount of data that the Met Office generates could be so expensive as to reduce the viability of such a move.

Clearly this is a conundrum faced by many businesses, although it is worth considering the other side of the coin, because of course, the expense of data storage is not going to necessarily be lessened by steering clear of the cloud.

Relying on internal hardware to store vast mountains of data, with more generated by the second, will be an increasingly expensive proposition for organisations like the Met Office and also for enterprises in the private sector.

While the cloud offers scalable and cost-effective storage with no need to worry about the costs of hardware procurement, maintenance and upgrades, the same is not true of on-site IT.

Tomkins did hint that this is something he is aware of, since he said that the cloud is becoming a more attractive option as time passes, the cost of storage drops and the needs of the Met Office grow ever greater.

The data generated by the Met Office comes in multiple forms and is generally non-sequential, with video content and in depth satellite imagery being particularly data intensive.

Tomkins said that this was part of the reason behind its decision to choose open source software for its latest projects. It could also be a factor in convincing the Met Office that cloud computing is the way to go.

The Met Office is not only dealing with weather conditions down on the surface of our planet, but is also getting involved with weather outside of our atmosphere.

A partnership with NASA on a scheme to chart space weather, including the conditions on the sun, is ongoing and seeks to find out how and when solar flares will occur, so that we can plan for their impact on the technologies we use on Earth.

It seems likely that the Met Office will follow in the footsteps of many other public and private sector organisations in adopting cloud computing, even if it takes a few years for this technology to take hold there.

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