Ensuring future generations’ access to key environmental data

NOAA’s vast information collections are a national treasure of environmental data. We help make them available for contemporary users and future generations.

About

NOAA’s Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System (CLASS) consolidates significant portions of the agency’s digital environmental information in a single IT infrastructure. This initiative is designed to preserve data and make them accessible to various communities around the world.
CLASS archives some of NOAA’s largest data collections, including numerous satellite and RADAR campaigns. In addition, selected smaller campaigns are migrating to CLASS as well. All of these data are made available through a common set of interfaces, greatly facilitating user access.

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Challenges

CLASS’s mission presented two significant technical obstacles. First, the sheer volume of the data created hardware architecture and logistical challenges. Second, the heterogeneity of NOAA’s countless environmental data collections made it challenging to provide common user interfaces and data formats to CLASS users.

At the same time the project was solving these technical problems for extant campaigns, it also had to prepare for large data influxes from newly launched campaigns and balance critical operational and preservation responsibilities.

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What We Did

We’ve supported CLASS since 2002. Along the way, we’ve applied our expertise in distributed systems, environmental data processing, and information preservation across the CLASS software development lifecycle, providing technical leadership and supporting architecture, design, and coding efforts in a number of key areas.

 

We:

  • Helped found the CLASS system engineering team (SET)
  • Chaired the SET for several years
  • Served as lead software architects
  • Conceived and wrote the CLASS target system architecture
  • Championed the adoption of international information preservation standards
  • Wrote white papers that directly influenced the project’s future course
  • Promoted the move to commodity software and hardware platforms
  • Improved extant search algorithm accuracy
  • Wrote software providing polar search capabilities
  • Enhanced CLASS’s access system for increased user search capabilities
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The Results

CLASS has been a remarkably successful project for nearly 15 years, providing users highly available access to key environmental information and preserving that information for future generations. The project has succeeded despite significant technical challenges, the introduction of new campaigns, and having to address the needs of a large and diverse group of stakeholders.
Since 2002, our thought leadership and guidance have helped chart the course for CLASS’s evolution, and our software development efforts have significantly enhanced CLASS’s search and access capabilities.

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