Announcing high availability of DisasterAWARE

May 31, 2016

Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), a program managed by the University of Hawai‘i, recently announced deployment of its DisasterAWARE High Availability (H/A) architecture. The new architecture safeguards the core global hazard information and related content against outages and incidents. For numerous mission-critical DisasterAWARE platforms around the world, including those serving the general public, this is a major advancement.

“H/A is significant because it drastically improves availability of critical and potentially life-saving information for our clients and the general public worldwide” said Ray Shirkhodai, PDC Executive Director.  He added, “As many U.S. and international agencies and over 1.5 million public users have come to rely on our hazard information and related applications, we moved to do our best to safeguard these services against disruptions.”

While the changes are profound and important, they are also invisible. Users of any  DisasterAWARE-powered system or of the Disaster Alert mobile app, should notice nothing at all. This simply means that the core services provided by PDC to both disaster management professionals and the general public will now to remain available around the clock, around the world, and with minimal interruption, no matter what may happen at PDC headquarters on Maui.

This was achieved by a complete re-engineering of the core hazard processing and visualization service for cloud computing, and by redesigning how distributed DisasterAWARE platforms recover from and synchronize after a connection loss. The effort took many thousands of engineering hours, spread over more than a year.

“We owed it to all of our clients and users to do this completely transparently,” said Mateo Manzari, the Center’s Director of Information Technologies who oversaw the effort. “It was very challenging to revamp the entire core system with no outage or disruption,” he added.

The deployment of the new architecture started on May 3, when DisasterAWARE core services were migrated to Amazon Web Services cloud platform. PDC engineers, who had been working toward that moment for more than a year, diligently tested and switched the most critical services within the new, hardened environment. With this move, the Center joins NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Time Inc., and Netflix in the Amazon cloud.

From its founding, PDC has always been at the cutting edge of technology for disaster management. The first PDC website was designed in 1995, less than a year after Tim Berners-Lee moved to MIT to found the World Wide Web Consortium. For more than 20 years, PDC has been an innovator and leader in information and communication technology applied to disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, exploiting whatever advances can be discovered in numeric modeling, visualization, risk analysis, and other sound methodologies and sciences. The state of the art for the DisasterAWARE hazard monitoring and early warning platform in 2016 is High Availability by utilizing cloud computing.

Also of interest:

  • Review the advance of DisasterAWARE to HTML 5
  • To learn more about cloud computing, see AWS
  • Read about custom versions of DisasterAWARE for ASEAN and Vietnam

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