Infrastructure

The Weather Company scales web services to help keep people safe

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Weather compnay migrationScaling web resources to meet predicted peaks in user demand is a common challenge. Retailer ramp-up for Black Friday is a classic example. But weather is much less predictable, so the challenge for The Weather Company is exponentially more difficult.

Millions of people around the world rely on The Weather Company, an IBM Business, for accurate, up-to-date weather information. Demand is always high, but when extreme weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes hit, its websites come under intense pressure, getting up to five times more traffic than usual. To handle these sharp spikes in demand, The Weather Company is re-engineering its web platforms around IBM Cloud.

Weathering the storm

Extreme weather systems can develop very rapidly, triggering sudden surges in web traffic as people rush to check how they will be affected.

Our weather.com and wunderground.com sites are also unique because when they’re under pressure and operating at scale is when they add the greatest value. The most critical time to provide detailed, timely information is during hurricanes, tornadoes and severe winter storms, because that’s when weather insight really helps people keep themselves and their families safe.

It is absolutely critical that the infrastructure underpinning web platforms can reliably deliver high levels of performance under intense load. Previously, The Weather Company operated its own, on-premises infrastructure spread across 13 data centers in the US. But with more and more people accessing its websites from all across the globe, The Weather Company needed more and more compute resources, prompting a move to the cloud.

We wanted to be sure that whenever and wherever a major weather event developed, we had the resources to cope with the upswing in demand. Our previous cloud provider offered the scalability we wanted but locked us into using proprietary technologies. So we decided to rearchitect all our cloud services using open source tools in the IBM Cloud.

Fresh perspective on the cloud

First, The Weather Company migrated the Docker containers running its web servers from its existing cloud platform to the IBM Cloud, architecting the new environment on IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service, which orchestrates container management across a cluster of IBM Cloud Virtual Servers.

Kubernetes is the perfect fit for us, because its scaling parameters enable us to rapidly ramp up resources to meet demand. With IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service, IBM handles the day-to-day management work for our web environment. By freeing the DevOps team from low-level operational management, the solution enables them to focus their time and effort on responding to business requirements and rolling out new features. IBM Cloud Kubernetes Services enables us to deploy and get new systems to market 80 percent faster than with our previous solution.

The Weather Company uses IBM Cloud Object Storage to store the static assets such as images and videos that weather.com and wunderground.com serve to users. The company also uses IBM Cloud Logging and Monitoring, together with open source tools including Sysdig and Prometheus, to manage its extensive web server estate.

With IBM Cloud, the Weather Company can access infrastructure-as-a-service offerings such as IBM Cloud bare metal servers. In the future, this could help run services that can’t be containerized easily, or support workloads that require specific hardware profiles.

Bright skies ahead

By moving its weather.com and wunderground.com sites to IBM Cloud, The Weather Company has significantly improved the performance and scalability of our web services.

IBM Cloud gives us the hyper-scale elasticity we need to handle even the most dramatic spikes in traffic. Our typical daily load is about 30 million unique users, which can increase to well over 100 million during severe weather events.

With systems now hosted in IBM data centers in the US, Ireland and Singapore, The Weather Company also improved global coverage, improving service quality in Eastern Europe and Asia, new markets where The Weather Company is looking to grow our user base. This gives us full global reach and scalability to cover major weather events that happen in different parts of the world simultaneously.

Our most important priority is that The Weather Company can scale its web platforms to help people stay safe when extreme weather hits. IBM Cloud is the perfect engine to power our weather websites, enabling us to take massive peaks in traffic in stride and deliver a reliable service when people need it most.

Read the case study for more details.

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