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When storms hit, the Weather Company needs the cloud

Sharon Gaudin | Oct. 20, 2015
The company behind the Weather Channel saves money and scales with the cloud.

When hurricane winds are bearing down and water is rising across streets and into houses, no one at the Weather Channel wants to be thinking about server capacity or if their website can handle a twentyfold increase in traffic.

When major storms hit, the people at the Weather Channel want to focus on the science behind the weather and getting information out to those who need it most.

That's why the Weather Company has gone all-in with the cloud.

"For us, the days the infrastructure is the most tasked are the days you need to be focused on the business and not on the back end," said Landon Williams, vice president of infrastructure architecture and services at The Weather Company, the parent company behind The Weather Channel, and Weather Underground. "We have to make sure we perform the best when the weather is at its worst. Our whole ecosystem has to handle it."

landon williams weather company 
Landon Williams, vice president of Infrastructure Architecture and Services at The Weather Company.  Credit: Sharon Gaudin/Computerworld

Three and a half years ago, the Weather Company began a migration to the cloud because it needed to be able to effortlessly scale up to handle huge increases in traffic when big storms hit. Some storms caused site traffic to increase by 20 times, according to Williams.

Jagmeet Chawla, chief architect for the Weather Company, agreed that the company had to figure out a way to handle massive increases in traffic.

Generally, they deal with about 125 million unique visitors a month. However, if a big storm strikes, they could get that number in a single day. For some storms, the sites have gotten as many as 30 million visits in an hour.

Aside from the need to scale, the Weather Company also wanted to focus its technical staff on work that will add value to the business, instead of simply keeping the IT trains running.

"When you look at our size, we're 1,600 people," Williams said. "We're a big company in reach but not a big company in people. We are a weather intelligence, analytics company. We're a data science company. We're very good at that. I think we should get out of the data center business and focus on the decision making, the weather storytelling side of business. Running a Dell server really well doesn't make our business better."

Williams wanted to hand over the server-running tasks to a cloud vendor so his workers could focus on getting the apps and services that the business needs to run and stay ahead of its competitors.


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