2011/2012 HPCC Incubator Project: An Enterprise GIS Web Services Hosting Environment For NOAA

Contributed by: 
Micah Wengren

NOAA's Enterprise GIS Web Services Hosting Environment project is prototyping a centralized hosting platform that NOAA geospatial data providers will use to upload and publish their data via Web services that implement OGC Web service interface standards. The goal is to give all NOAA data providers access to a NOAA-wide common platform enabling standards-based, interoperable data sharing and publishing, without needing to configure and maintain the software at the program office level. To minimize costs and maximize performance and scalability, the hosting platform leverages popular open source GIS software packages GeoServer and PostGIS customized to work within NOAA's enterprise computing environment. The system runs on NOAA’s Web Operations Center and is integrated with NOAA's enterprise LDAP authentication system. 

The project originated as part of NOAA’s High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Incubator Program of 2011/2012.  Funding was awarded to the project team to investigate customizing open source software to meet NOAA’s particular needs for GIS data publishing.  Because NOAA often produces atmospheric, oceanographic and other forecasts and model output data as well as other geospatial data in frequently-updated automated workflows, the hosting platform needed to provide a scriptable data publishing capability.  GeoServer was an ideal choice because it includes an HTTP-based REST API that supports this.  This means that data providers can upload data sets from anywhere within NOAA’s network without encountering network firewall barriers. 

NOAA contracted with OpenGeo to customize GeoServer to provide LDAP and other authentication options as well as a group-based model to manage access to data, map styles, and other information uploaded to GeoServer.  These security enhancements and fine-grained access controls allow a single GeoServer instance to be shared seamlessly among many different user groups.  All of the functionality developed for NOAA has been merged into the trunk GeoServer code base and will be available in the upcoming GeoServer 2.2 release version for free download and use by anyone.  A good overview presentation from the FOSS4G North America 2012 conference on new features available in GeoServer 2.2 can be viewed here: http://foss4g-na.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/What_s_new_In_GeoServer_2_2.pdf.   

Currently, the project team is working with NOAA geospatial data providers to use the hosting platform during the 2011/2012 phase of NOAA's HPCC Incubator program and provide feedback on functionality, usability, problems, and areas of potential improvement.  NOAA data sets that have already been uploaded in prototype OGC-compliant services include National Hurricane Center tropical cyclone forecast tracks, graphical tropical weather outlooks, and preliminary ‘best track’ tropical cyclone track information, and National Geodetic Survey ‘Continuously Updated Shoreline Product’, a new merged national shoreline under development by NGS.  The hosting platform will be maintained for at least an additional year until summer 2013 by the Web Operations Center to provide enough time to assess its value as a resource to NOAA data providers. 

Prototype OGC-compliant WMS and WFS services that are published to the Enterprise GIS Web Services hosting platform will be cataloged in NOAA’s new GeoPlatform for access by the public: http://www.geoplatform.noaa.gov/.   NOAA data providers who would like to participate in evaluating the hosting platform should email open.ogc [@] list.woc.noaa.gov to request an account.

NOAA Hurricane Irene Forecast map

Figure 1: NOAA enterprise hosting platform experimental WMS service displaying NOAA National Hurricane Center forecast track and cone of uncertainty for Hurricane Irene, August 25, 2011.

 NOAA GeoExplorer shoreline

Figure 2: GeoExplorer view of NOAA National Geodetic Survey 'Best Available' shoreline data set (in beta) served via experimental WMS, overlaid with MapQuest imagery background map.



Micah Wengren is an IT Specialist working in NOAA's Coast Survey Development Laboratory.  His work includes web application development and system development with a focus on geospatial data and mapping.