Thoughts and Prayers to the Residents of the Big Island of Hawaii

Rick Walsworth

Like many of us, my thoughts have been consumed with the tragic developments in Hawaii regarding the Kilauea volcano and earthquakes that are affecting so many people on the big island.  Being one quarter Hawaiian with many Ohana (family) that still live throughout the islands, this is something that is very close to my heart.  I recently had the opportunity to work with Ray Shirkhodai and the amazing team at Pacific Disaster (PDC), based in Kihei, Hawaii and have a true appreciation for the work that they do.  The team at PDC has been working around the clock to provide real time updates via the PDC disaster alert system using data analytics as the core engine to power the PDC disaster modelling technology. This is truly a case where humanity and technology are tied very closely together and PDC is providing a valuable service to the global community.  My heart and prayers go out to all of the first responders and to everyone that is affected by this ongoing natural disaster.  I encourage anyone that wants to help the people of Hawaii to text the American RedCross at 90999 which will send a $10 tax deductible donation to the recovery efforts 

Protecting Life, Limb, and Property with High-Performance Data Infrastructure

Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) uses science and technology for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). To achieve this, PDC collects a large amount of observational and other data from a variety of sources. This data is used to fuel modelling of disaster scenarios that is used to inform disaster preparedness procedures, DRR, and further research.  PDC recently deployed Vexata to replace an older storage array that was creating performance bottlenecks in their environment.

PDC also produces a range of tools for use by governments and private organizations, from free apps for multi-hazard early warning and decision support, to enterprise grade analytical products for executive decision-makers, disaster managers, and community planners. Being one of several research facilities located in Kihei, Hawaii, on the island of Maui, PDC deals with the massive amounts of data to present a global view of worldwide event.  Disaster modelling is no easy task, requiring advanced analytics and modeling techniques that PDC is constantly seeking ways to improve the user experience.

High performance infrastructure for massive analytics and modelling

PDC’s IT infrastructure has approximately 150 hosts used for analytics and modeling throughout it’s sophisticated data center located in Kihei on the island of Maui . In addition, PDC relies on a number of cloud-based applications for processes that benefit from redundancy and other benefits of the cloud. The IT challenge facing PDC is how to deliver large volumes of data required for complex modelling and power applications that are meaningful, relevant, accurate, and timely for end users.

Part of this challenge stems from the huge variety of data collected by PDC. Tasks like oceanic and weather monitoring generate large amounts of telemetry data from a range of sensor types all over the world, including everything from temperature sensors to sea level and wave action monitoring devices. These data can inform modelling and monitoring around disasters like tsunamis and even aviation and maritime accidents, but are only most effective for disaster response and prevention when data is provided on time.

According to Ray Shirkhodai, Pacific Disaster Center’s Executive Director, the key to these data delivery challenges is speed. “We knew that speed was very important to ensuring good user experiences, so we started looking for places in our environment and data center where we could improve those parameters,” said Shirkodai. “The storage architecture is clearly one of those places, but we had to find a solution that could offer a serious performance enhancement while also being competitively priced and offering ease of implementation and maintenance.”

Overhauling the storage architecture

Pacific Disaster Center conducted a proof-of-concept with the Vexata VX-100F and left a very strong impression with the PDC technical team. “Right out of the box, we saw the bottleneck go from our disk to the network, which is a very good sign—in fact, we weren’t seeing any more storage latency,” said Shrikhodai. “Working with Vexata was a great experience as well. Our teams partnered very effectively to understand the unique aspects of our use case and develop an action plan that worked.”

Vexata’s small footprint and ease of management were also able to improve efficiency as well as performance for PDC, an important concern for an organization structured as a public/private partnership and serving many public and NGO entities across the globe. “Vexata has saved me a lot of network administration time, which is great for our IT department,” says Shrikhodai. “In Hawaii, we want to become energy independent by 2040, so Vexata is helping us in that area as well.”

Powering PDC’s next developments

While PDC was created by an act of Congress in response to the destruction of Hurricane Iniki to the Hawaiian Island of Kauai in 1992, and continues to serve many public and nonprofit functions, the next major shift for the organization is to expand its products and service offerings for private industry. According to Shrikhodai, the kind of insights into risk offered by PDC are unique and valuable. “We think it’ll be pretty disruptive to empower private industry with risk analysis technology that could be applied to managing supply chains.”

In addition to market expansions, PDC is also experimenting with more advanced analytics techniques, including machine learning and artificial intelligence. These applications will place new and significant demands on the organization’s IT infrastructure, further underscoring the importance of deploying a high-performance storage architecture. Said Shrikhodai, “Ultimately, we want this technology to do the best possible job reducing losses of life and property, and we need advanced analytics techniques and a high-performance infrastructure to do that.”

Vexata will be with the PDC team for every step in this journey, especially as they continue to push the technology envelope and drive solutions for advanced machine learning and cognitive systems as part of their technological advancement.  Learn more by watching this video or by downloading this Vexata customer profilePlease also take a moment to contribute to the Kilauea volcano recovery efforts at the American Red Cross by texting 90999 to make your $10 tax deductible donation.

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