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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.

Williams and his team also had to deal with the fact that after two acquisitions, the Weather Company owned 13 data centers spread across the country. Those data centers ran the gamut from top-tier managed facilities to closets with eight- or nine-year-old servers stuffed inside.

the lab weather company 
The Weather Company, parent company of the Weather Channel shown here, is 80% on the cloud, with plans to move the last 20% in the next 18 months. Credit: The Weather Company

To get to the cloud, the Weather Company decided to start out using Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Today, 80% of the company's services and apps are running on the cloud, and the final 20% are expected to migrate to the cloud over the next 18 months.

And the company is saving money.

Williams noted that three years ago, it was about 10% cheaper for the company to run its own data centers. However, with an approximately 10% price cut that AWS made in April 2014, it was suddenly 5% cheaper to run on the AWS cloud. With subsequent price cuts, it's now 15% cheaper, according to Williams. It's also easier for the tech team with the cloud.

"It's night-and-day different," Williams said. "We don't scramble and run around and think about what we'll turn off if [traffic] goes too high. What was the high-water mark last time? What will we do differently this time? We just don't have to do that anymore. It's the difference between not sleeping and sleeping."

Architecting an insurance plan

While Williams decided to start with AWS, he wanted to make sure the Weather Company's systems could handle multiple cloud vendors. It was an insurance plan.

"We've always architected to be able to move on to another vendor without significant changes," he explained. "What if Amazon ever had a systemwide failure? What if Amazon stops innovating or they change their business model and we don't want to be there? We wanted the resiliency and confidence that we could handle as many fault scenarios as we could think of."

Because of its scale, the Weather Company needed to make sure its systems never crashed, so it was worth it to work with more than one vendor.

That's why it's also started working with IBM-owned Softlayer Technologies.

Today, about 70% of the Weather Company's system is on AWS, another 10% is with Softlayer and 20% is still on the company's legacy data centers.

Some apps and services run on one platform but not the other. However, the company's most critical systems, such as its SUN (Storage Utility Network) data platform, run on both.

 

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