“Technology is not just equipment. It’s how you use the equipment and how you adapt it to the environment. And that’s where I believe our partnership with HP is so strong, because HP has that attitude and it really fits well with AccuWeather’s culture.” — Kathleen Fiore, Vice President and CIO, AccuWeather, Inc. Success story: AccuWeather, Inc. relies on HP technology to save lives, protect property and help people prosper
The most trusted name in weather Today, the weather forecast is arguably one of the most sought-after news items throughout the world. Businesses, governments and individuals all rely on weather forecasting to build markets, protect lives and property, and plan daily activities. “No other endeavor impacts as many daily lives as weather and the accurate forecasting of it,” says Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, CEO and President of AccuWeather, Inc. “For over 41 years, we at AccuWeather have been committed to developing the technology and expertise that enable us to understand the causes and accurately forecast weather events. By making our forecasts available through every possible media, we enrich the lives of consumers, add to the wealth of the economy, help to protect property, and even save lives.” To accomplish this impressive mission, AccuWeather relies on innovative technology solutions from HP. Dubbed by The New York Times as “the most accurate man in weather,” Myers is the pioneer who transformed weather forecasting into an industry. As a graduate student of meteorology at Penn State University in 1962, Myers received his first consulting assignment, which was to provide weather forecasting information to a Pennsylvania utility company. Thus began the fulfillment of a dream he had held since he was 11 years old: to help industry and consumers by providing weather forecasts and information of value through his own weather company. Since that time, Myers has built the world’s best-known commercial weather service. AccuWeather employs more than 325 professionals, including 86 forecast meteorologists. It provides customized weather forecasting services to 95,000 clients worldwide, including international media, more than 180 Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and private subscribers. Myers credits the growth of his business to a single word: trust. “We have built trust and people come to us when the weather is important in their lives.” Trust is also the reason AccuWeather relies on HP technology to do its job. “HP has been a trusted advisor to AccuWeather for over 20 years, so we use their equipment extensively. Their advice has been invaluable to us,” states Myers. Kathleen Fiore, Vice President and CIO of AccuWeather, explains the importance of information technology to the organization. “Over the years, AccuWeather has gone from a meteorological weather company that produces forecasts to a technology company. Information technology is the heartbeat of AccuWeather. If we didn’t have accuracy, speed, and most importantly reliability in our IT systems, we wouldn’t have a business. HP OpenVMS systems are the critical lynchpin of our entire process.” AccuWeather’s forecast information is stored and processed on the AccuWeather Forecast Engine  (AFE), an internally developed and constantly updated system. Running on HP OpenVMS systems, the AFE is based on more than 20 years of unique business logic and architecture. It is designed to allow the AccuWeather meteorologists to produce optimal forecast data and the system of ‘weather phrases’ that are one of AccuWeather’s competitive differentiators. Taking weather to the Web Over the past five years, AccuWeather has become the premier supplier of global online weather information. Each month, AccuWeather.com®  receives about 6 million visitors who access 90 million page views. AccuWeather.com serves 95,000 paying customers in media, business, government and institutions, and millions more through the website. AccuWeather.com also provides content to more than 600 Internet sites including CNN Interactive, ABC’s owned and operated stations, The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post. “HP has been a trusted advisor to AccuWeather for over 20 years, so we use their equipment extensively. Their advice has been invaluable to us.” — Dr. Joel N. Myers, Founder, CEO and President of AccuWeather, Inc.
The monumental success of AccuWeather.com has also been the source of the company’s most daunting IT challenge. In the highly competitive business of weather forecasting, speed is a critical success factor. Customers rely on fast, accurate weather updates – or they don’t return to the website. “The AccuWeather.com website has grown to three times its former size in two years,” explains Fiore. When she first arrived in 2002, the company was finalizing the launch of its website operations on an IIS/Windows® architecture. As site traffic increased, speed became a serious problem. “To meet the demands of a growing customer base, we planned to add more servers. However, with every new server added, the time it took to populate the server farm with forecast data increased as well. We were faced with a regressive architecture.” 60-fold speed increase As site traffic and other customer demands continued to grow, getting information from the data source to the website in a timely manner was presenting significant challenges. Because updating the whole server farm from beginning to end required the replication of OpenVMS data to a SQL Server database, AccuWeather felt the time required to perform this function was becoming unacceptable, especially in severe weather situations where rapidly disseminating the most up-to-date information to the public was essential. To remedy this problem, the HP account team brought in business partner Attunity, a leading provider of real-time connectivity solutions. Together, they analyzed AccuWeather’s systems and proposed a proof-of-concept solution using Attunity Connect running on HP OpenVMS AlphaServer systems. The result exceeded expectations. “HP invited our IT engineers to its testing lab in Nashua, New Hampshire, and showed them how they could get our information from OpenVMS systems out onto our website within minutes,” recounts Fiore. “The proof of concept allowed us to look at Attunity, look at the HP equipment, and the combination of both increased the speed by which we are able to update our server farm by over 60-fold.” With Attunity Connect, the AccuWeather website seamlessly accesses weather conditions and forecast data directly from the OpenVMS systems, eliminating the bottlenecks and performance problems that were introduced when the data had to be replicated in SQL Server.  “We decided to stay on OpenVMS because the platform still has a lot of life in it. The Attunity solution allowed us to remain on OpenVMS and leverage its power, speed, accuracy and security,” states Fiore. “It’s like magic” Based on the success of the proof of concept, AccuWeather began to move the Attunity Connect-based solution into the production environment. Six months later, the solution went live – on schedule and within budget. “When the solution went live, meteorologists said things like: ‘This is unbelievable. It’s like magic! We’ve never seen this kind of performance.’ It’s not quite magic,” comments Fiore. “It’s the combination of HP and Attunity – it’s the right equipment and the right software.”   AccuWeather expected a return on investment in 18 months, but has revised that expectation to come months earlier. With the new solution, all trends are up: new customers, new unique page views, new advertising revenues. “Technology is usually very impersonal, but this personal side of the story is very powerful,” Fiore relates. “I have friends in California who use AccuWeather.com religiously. One of my friends used our website days after we implemented our new HP Attunity solution. In this particular case, she was watching our website for rain because her parents lived just below the San Bernardino Mountains, where there had been terrible fires. Our website warned of floods and mudslides. She called her parents who don’t have a computer, and got them out 15 minutes before half their house was destroyed by a mudslide.” What’s the forecast? AccuWeather is committed to staying on the leading edge of weather innovations, which means staying on the leading edge of information technology. “As we look down the road, we’re into all of the new technologies such as wireless – and wireless means speed,” says Fiore. “But technology is not just equipment. It’s how you use the equipment and how you adapt it to the environment. And that’s where I believe our partnership is so strong, because HP has that attitude and it really fits well with AccuWeather’s culture.” “Our long-term plan is to keep our backend AccuWeather Forecast Engine on OpenVMS because it has a viable future,” comments Fiore. “HP is breathing new life into OpenVMS by porting it to their industry-standard Integrity servers. This allows us to keep the same operating system, preserve our code and all the many years of work that our scientists have spent developing the algorithms, and absolutely gives us a roadmap into the future on newer hardware that gets us there faster. There’s no question that HP is part of the roadmap to AccuWeather’s future.” “IT is the heartbeat of AccuWeather. If we didn’t have accuracy, speed, and most importantly reliability in our IT systems, we wouldn’t have a business. HP OpenVMS systems are the critical lynchpin of our entire process.” — Kathleen Fiore, Vice President and CIO, AccuWeather, Inc.
Adaptive enterprise solution overview: Meet growing demand with unprecedented speed Challenge Significantly reduce the time required to update forecast information published on the AccuWeather.com website Implement Attunity Connect application on OpenVMS systems to seamlessly access weather conditions and forecast data directly from the AccuWeather Forecast Engine, eliminating the bottlenecks and performance problems that were introduced when data had to be replicated in SQL Server • Increased the speed of moving information from the database to the website by over 60-fold • Reduced costs associated with the purchase of new servers and the increased staff to maintain them Solution Results At a glance • Name: AccuWeather, Inc. • Headquarters: State College, Pennsylvania • Established: 1962 • URL: www.accuweather.com • Products/services: Innovative products and presentation systems that have defined the weather forecasting industry and made weather forecasts a daily part of millions of people’s lives, including the highly popular AccuWeather.com, the only source on the Web for Exclusive RealFeel Temperature® , Hour-by-Hour Forecasts, and detailed 15-Day Forecasts. Technology highlights • Hardware: HP AlphaServer systems • Operating systems: HP OpenVMS, Microsoft Windows • Application: Attunity Connect For more information on how working with HP can benefit you, contact your local HP service representative or visit us at www.hp.com AccuWeather.com, RealFeel Temperature, Hour-by-Hour Forecasts, and 15-Day Forecasts are trademarks or registered trademarks of AccuWeather, Inc. Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation. © 2004 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. The only warranties for HP products and services are set forth in the express warranty statements accompanying such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. HP shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein. 5982-6785EN