Images taken by astronauts from the International Space Station and images taken by the Earth observation satellites of the European Space Agency (ESA) show that our planet is hiding from all too curious glances. Almost 70 percent of the earth's surface is covered with clouds - this was discovered by scientists using the radio spectrometer MODIS.
That may not pose a problem for satellites that scan the planet in the infrared range, but satellites with sensors reach their limits. The reason: clouds block the view, shadows cover objects on the ground. So how can satellites get a clear view of the Earth around the clock despite cloud cover?
Cloud-free Atlas from the Cloud
Joachim Ungar and Stephan Meissl, founders of the Austrian IT service provider EOX, have come up with a solution to this problem. Their mission is to deliver a cloud-free world map based on satellite data. To do so they spent a year collecting data from the Sentinel 2 satellite, a part of the Copernicus terrestrial observation program, and compiled from this data an atlas consisting of 80 trillion pixels – cloud-free and as the so-called Sentinel-2 Cloudless application accessible to everyone free of charge in the cloud.
The photographic material from outer space made available by ESA as part of the Copernicus program provides important findings on the state of our planet. It helps measure forest cover, collect climate data of cities or observe the movement of ice floes in the oceans, for example. Air quality can also be analyzed in this way and improved on the basis of these findings. So they are an enormously valuable resource for scientists, forestry departments, farmers or shipping lines. But they come at a price: that of enormous amounts of data that are not easy to manage. The Copernicus satellite collects 20 terabytes of data per day – the data equivalent of around 4,000 motion pictures in HD quality at five gigabytes each.
Satellite Data from the Open Telekom Cloud
The European Space Agency is using cloud computing to store this data in the long term, process it efficiently and make it available free of charge to every user. And together with T-Systems, it has launched the Copernicus Data and Information Access Service (Copernicus DIAS). The aim is to make data from space available to everyone free of charge – without having to rely on expensive data processing infrastructure or storage resources. Deutsche Telekom provides the right cloud solution for this with its public cloud offering, the Open Telekom Cloud.
Mundi Web Services is an important link between users and the satellite data that has been available in the Open Telekom Cloud since June 2018. The Bonn-based provider operates the cloud on the basis of OpenStack open cloud computing architecture in the high-security and certified data centers in Magdeburg and Biere. Mundi Web Services not only provides data from space in the cloud, but also special services for data analysis, such as the Sentinel-2 Cloudless application from EOX. Mundi Web Services thus provides a solution for everyone as a central point of contact: data, users and analysis services all come together in the Open Telekom Cloud, where users can process the data directly. The advantage: Own computing and storage resources for the complex applications are no longer necessary.
Data Stored in the Public Cloud’s Object-Based Storage
Mundi Web Services aims to extend its offerings step by step. Third-party providers can offer their solutions for the use of satellite data – solutions such as e-GEOS’s grassland monitoring, a service that enables users to keep abreast of mowing activities or of the extent of grassland cover in a region.
All of the data from space is kept in the Open Telekom Cloud’s Object-Based Storage. In order to avoid chaos with the numerous terabytes per day, middleware allocates exact storage space to the data. After indexing, all data is stored in a class, depending on which has the best price/performance ratio for the current access rate. The classification ensures economical data storage, so that Mundi Web Services can provide the information free of charge.
“With Copernicus DIAS we have basically democratized the satellite data,” says T-Systems project manager Etienne Boutelliez. “Everyone has free access to the data and can process it for their own purposes, including commercial use.”
100,000 users download the data every day – an extremely heavy load on the networks before Copernicus DIAS was set up. Today, download is now no longer necessary; the information is used on the virtual machines of the Open Telekom Cloud. The data from the Copernicus program will be available over a long period of time. In about four years, there will be an archive of around 40 petabytes – equivalent to about eight billion smartphone photos of five megabytes each.