California Crews Fight Wildfires Using Cloud Data

California Crews Fight Wildfires Using Cloud Data

California crews are no longer just fighting wildfires with bulldozers, land equipment, and air tankers filled with water, fire retardant, or chemicals. Now, they have access to aerial photos, statistics on wind and moisture in the ground, and other related data they can use to prepare them better, according to an article in CIO magazine.

The data, which is made available via a private cloud, helps firefighters and their supporting logistics teams respond more effectively to wildfires, according to Tim Garza, director of IT at the California Natural Resources Agency.

The agency has consolidated 30 data centers and server rooms into one and combines data from various departments and state organizations so it’s easier to analyze, according to Mary Pratt, the author of the article.

Garza and his team use NetApp tools for storage and to partition off parts of the private cloud so only people with the appropriate authorization can access the data.

Using smartphones and rugged laptops, firefighters can access the cloud data while they’re in the field, enabling them to be more productive. Then when they’re not working the fires, they can analyze “large data sets containing current and historical records to identify danger zones and take preventive measures, such as clearing brush,” Pratt notes.

The cloud, and the apps and portals to access it, give the firefighters logistical support on the ground in real time, the article notes.

But it’s not just firefighters who leverage this data. Other state agencies as well as citizens can access current and historical data in the California Natural Resources Agency’s private cloud, according to Pratt.

For example, by analyzing decades of data on water flows, soil erosion, and climate change, the state is better able to manage water use during droughts, Pratt notes. Additionally, farmers can make better planting decisions by collecting stats on rainfall and groundwater.

California and several other states are also trying to make statistics, maps and other information publicly available for use by citizens, programmers and others. The idea is to make information open and easily accessible, Garza says in the article.

Storage technology is key to making data available reliably, as well as for protecting it, according to Henry Baltazar, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

IT leaders have to figure out how best to store data in private clouds, based on how their business stakeholders will use it. Storage tools can help manage server workloads by moving data around as needed, Baltazar notes.

“You create this pool of resources that you can give to any business stakeholder when they need it,” Baltazar notes in the article. “That’s what people are trying to get to.”

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