A few years ago, with an eye toward eventually shifting AWIPS workloads to the cloud, the department set out to modernize the system’s infrastructure: a computer network includes installations at nearly 170 sites across the country. Each location had a legacy dependency on six to 10 servers.
“Our first goal was to find a way to reduce that footprint,” says Henry-Reeves. “The lifecycle cost of all of those servers was a significant portion of our budget, and supporting that infrastructure had become a logistical burden.”
The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act also drove the initiative. “Like other agencies, we’d been given a mandate to start consolidating our data centers,” she says.
A Step Above the Rest
After reviewing bids, the NWS decided to migrate AWIPS to a hyperconverged infrastructure from Red Hat, says Henry-Reeves. With HCI, the servers and storage networks and arrays that make up a traditional data center are combined in a single, software-defined system. Many agencies turn to hyperconvergence because the virtualized architecture scales easily and brings the added benefit of simplifying IT management — a big draw for the NWS.
Because AWIPS is a high-availability system, approximately half of the servers at each site were reserved for failover, Henry-Reeves says. “If a server died, everything it was doing would go over to a paired server so the system could continue to function in a degraded mode.”
That calculus changed in August 2022 when the NWS completed the transition to HCI. The technology enabled the agency to reduce its server rooms by half, says Henry-Reeves. “Now, we only have about three at most offices, and failover is more automated with the virtual machines,” she says.