Technology Today

2011 Issue 2

AWIPS II – Raytheon Upgrades the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System

The Battlefield Game Changer: Portable and Wearable Soldier PowerAWIPS Table

Since 2005, Raytheon has partnered with NWS for the operations, maintenance and evolution of AWIPS, and has provided the integrated mission services required to sustain and enhance system performance. As the architect of the AWIPS evolution, Raytheon designed, developed and is currently testing AWIPS II, the system's next-generation software.

The science of meteorology is constantly evolving to improve forecasting. With the arrival of new satellites and sensors such as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R), there will be an explosion of observational data. Originally developed in the mid 1990s, the AWIPS software was an integration of existing forecasting programs and applications. The resulting stove-piped architecture was inefficient to operate, maintain and enhance. The AWIPS II software provides a flexible, agile architecture to rapidly accommodate and manage new and unique data sets. Its simplified code strengthens system performance while reducing the maintenance burden. All of this is achieved while retaining a system look and feel that makes the AWIPS evolution nearly transparent to the forecaster. Benefits and improvements provided by the AWIPS II architecture are listed in Table 1.

Open-source Systems Innovation

Any enterprise software project must consider both technical requirements and cost constraints, particularly for ongoing operations and maintenance. Commercial and proprietary software maintenance costs can be prohibitive in an enterprise as large as the NWS. To address these issues, Raytheon created an innovative next-generation design for AWIPS II using open-source software. Under this initiative, Raytheon is migrating legacy AWIPS functionality to a service-oriented architecture that supports modern, standards-based interfaces.

The team focused on four of the "-ilities" to drive the new AWIPS II architecture:

  • Scalability: Horizontal scalability allows the scaling of system size and performance by adding low-cost commodity hardware for cost-effective support of new satellite and sensor systems. The framework can scale down to small laptops, and through workstations (Figure 1), to clusters of enterprise servers without a software change.
  • Flexibility: Standards-based interfaces make AWIPS II highly portable and easy to integrate with, providing end users with greater flexibility for developing and integrating new tools and capabilities to the AWIPS platform.
  • Extensibility: The modernized architecture allows for simplified integration of new data sets and environmental applications without having to make major changes to the system infrastructure.
  • Maintainability: The use of modular design and loose coupling of components, along with consistent use of standards and modern development tools, results in reduced complexity and simplified maintenance. This also aids in maintaining overall software quality.
Figure 1

Raytheon's AWIPS II solution reduces maintenance requirements, improves reliability and enhances forecasting performance. Common services and open-source software allow the NWS to be more responsive to the requirements for new weather products and services. It also gives users outside the weather community the ability to more easily ingest, process and visualize essential environmental data to support critical mission needs.

Flexibility Like Never Before

The Raytheon team created a new, low-cost framework for hosting a full range of environmental services, including thick client1 visualization. High performance data services using advanced data serialization techniques enable gaming style interaction and image remapping on the fly. This customizable visualization at the base/site/user level through extensible markup language (XML) files and scripts gives users a completely tailorable view of the data. The visualizations of imagery, grids and observations allow for zooming in on satellite imagery with full resolution, enhancing environmental mapping and analysis and helping to guide environmental decision making (Figure 2).

AWIPS II is designed to accelerate innovation by quickly adapting to new science and data types through plug-ins. The ability to develop, test, exchange, validate, promote and improve local AWIPS applications is built in.

To encourage collaborative development in AWIPS II between local and national NWS developers and outside parties, such as NASA and academia, Raytheon introduced the concept of the AWIPS APPS Store™. This secure portal and service will allow authorized AWIPS II users to quickly and efficiently browse, download and document applications developed for operational use and published through the NWS. The AWIPS APPS Store will enable knowledge sharing across the forecaster user community, linking operations and research across the new enterprise infrastructure to enhance all levels of weather forecasting operations.

AWIPS II leverages the open service-oriented architecture and interoperable environment to anticipate and accommodate new and advanced applications. New data types, visualization and decision support tools, and scientific algorithms can all be incorporated through the features already in the AWIPS II architecture. It facilitates installation, collaboration, publication and notification, promoting a vibrant life cycle of new and improving applications across the NWS enterprise.

When this community of contributors has the tools to develop applications within the AWIPS II architecture, their work will transition into operations more quickly and easily at much lower costs. Faster and more accurate warnings and forecasts will result from this rapid infusion of new science and applications into the AWIPS II framework.

Figure 2
Next-Generation Forecasting

Reaching beyond the weather services and river forecast offices, Raytheon is bringing AWIPS II baseline code into the operations for NWS' nine National Centers for Environmental Prediction, providing a seamless weather enterprise that integrates all levels of NWS operations.

The foundation of AWIPS II supports the future evolution for decision support services as NWS brings in other data sources and information into its systems. This provides a common operating picture to better support the customer for emergency response, aviation and more. For instance, by employing AWIPS II decision-support tools, emergency managers can improve incident management through better forecasting of the weather that impacts their operations and the lives and safety of those they serve.

AWIPS II does not change how forecasters currently do their jobs. It all happens behind the scenes. The biggest differences forecasters notice are enhanced displays and performance due to sharing of data between applications. AWIPS II provides next-generation decision support for the NWS through improved data delivery, collaboration, information generation and visualization. Raytheon's open, scalable, standards-based, service-oriented architecture provides a flexible and expandable system that meets the long-term requirements necessary for predicting weather now and in the future.

Andy Nappi

1Full-featured computers that are connected to a network.

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