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November 1, 2017updated 02 Nov 2017 4:38pm

MET Office forecasts bright skies after clearing cloud with AWS

To further reach customers around the UK, MET Office scales up with AWS to drive weather forecasts forward.

By April Slattery

Amazon Web Services continues to tap into a broad range of verticals across public sector organisations, steaming ahead of its rivals as it does so.

The MET Office, one of a long list of public sector organisations to have taken up the chance to develop its initiatives further within AWS, turned to AWS last when when it began deploying data into the cloud last year. The idea being that AWS could help it to deliver effective weather reports. The MET Office has now begun to better utilise AWS to reach consumers as well as benefit internal teams to develop the best infrastructures to date.

For an organisation such as the MET Office it’s unsurprising that its key driving focus is around economically giving back enough data to its consumers, which requires large amounts of scale, and that any technology they invest in must help continue this heritage many years into the future. With AWS, the MET office can effectively scale up to distribute and serve large amounts of data around the UK.

MET Office forecasts bright skies after clearing cloud with AWS

Charles Ewen, CIO of the MET Office

CBR’s April Slattery spoke with Charles Ewen, CIO of the MET Office, about all things AWS and the future the organisation and people across the UK can expect. When workloads increase the MET Office can effectively scale up, when workloads cease to be relevant it can scale down meaning a partner that can effectively allow them to continue to do so is a driving factor to using AWS.

“We’ve had to find a hybrid model that allows us to do what we’re best at, which is supercomputing and science then work with another company [like Amazon] to be able to exploit all other elements like agility, resilience and those are the benefits we are looking for and Amazon gives us immense scale,” Ewen said.

Data is the driving force of the MET Office, therefore it is important how this information is handled and deployed. Weather updates and user led areas are an important area the MET Office focuses on for its consumers.

Delivery of data has come a long way since the MET Office was first established in April last year, with weather reports now being deployed over multiple platforms including now Amazon Alexa.

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“All user led things are utilised with AWS,” Ewen said and with this focus paramount for the MET Office, joining forces with Amazon Alexa seemed somewhat natural to give consumers what they want and need.

Utilising the abilities of Alexa has offered a new way for the public to plan their day, easily knowing what the weather forecast is in their area effortlessly by simply asking Alexa.

Jacob Tomlinson Lead Engineer, the MET Office, said: “Our first step into the Alexa world was to produce a flash briefing skill, so users can now add the MET Office to their Alexa so that users can get our regional forecasts for specific areas through a single device.”

Scale is paramount for the MET Office and the analytics of AWS allow the organisation to deliver accurate data to customers, through Alexa and other apps such as Twitter and Facebook. Working with location-based weather services, AWS can handle higher amounts of traffic and better plan for short-term weather events to give faster and more detailed forecasts at more locations.

MET Office Scales-up, up and away into the clouds with AWS

MET Office uses Alexa to deliver weather services.

“A big thing cloud services can do for us is turn data into something useful, realistic and economic for others to re-use and make decisions off the back of it. People don’t often care about the amount, instead how it affects them,” Ewen said.

The technical benefits of using AWS are helping to drive the MET Office into the digital future, with the ability to reduce time spent researching and more time inventing and innovating. Moreover, with a lower latency AWS delivers a more efficient service.

Ewen said: “AWS helps engineers get access to something, from computer networks, storage or memory. Compared to in premise days, it would take two weeks. AWS takes away the limitations on invention, which means engineers and scientists have a quicker way to try new approaches at a high scale.”

Charles reiterated the company’s focus on scale up IT, but also focuses on scaling up infrastructure with the use of AWS. Using AWS has advanced working life for engineers across the company, as they have moved to multi-disciplinary teams with people from all different departments.

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In order to keep ahead of the game on the data front, the MET Office has benefitted immensely from joining skills together. Instead of widening the skills gap, AWS is closing it at the MET Office.

AWS has combined together a highly skilled workforce and Tomilinson said: “Coming together using AWS we can build things quickly, learn quickly, fail and succeed quickly and share those skills within the team as infrastructure and physicist specialist work together.”

Having a highly skilled workforce as a foundation to the future of the MET Office allows them to increase the pace of innovation much more quickly than ever before, as those mixed skills brings more opportunity to develop solutions across all areas.

Alexa has impacted organisations and users around the country, bringing information or entertainment to her users. Such a simple application has so much depth behind the product to collect, store and analyse the data so it can quickly deliver local weather reports and connect with customers more efficiently. Ewen hopes AWS can improve delivery of data even further in the future using elements of AI and higher densities of data.

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