computers; perhaps a small application in a language such as Java could accept user subsetting boundaries, subset the data (and accompanying metadata), and deliver the data via FTP.

  1. Use commodity-level hardware and software where possible and cost effective.

  2. Monitor access statistics of FTP, NFS, and MODster and actively pursue user feedback.

Recommendation: Data centers and their sponsoring agencies should create independent demonstration data centers aimed at testing applicable technologies and satisfying the data needs of a range of users, including interdisciplinary and nontechnical users. These centers might best prove technological approaches through several participants working in parallel.

While the costs of implementing new solutions are likely to be significant, careful strategic planning and phasing in of new solutions could greatly reduce the need to invest substantial new resources in technology. By using opportunities to adopt incremental changes in technology, data centers can spread the costs of hardware and software acquisition over time.

Recommendation: Data centers should aggressively adopt newer, more “bleeding edge” technical approaches where there might be significant return on investment. This should be done carefully to minimize the inevitable failures that will occur along the way. Even with the failures, the committee believes the cost savings and improvements for end users will be substantial when compared to the methods practiced today.

After decades of development and at least one decade of substantial investment, the nation’s data centers have achieved successes. They store huge volumes of data reliably and provide some widely used and trusted products. The challenges posed by the rapidly expanding quantity and diversity of environmental data and increasing user demands can be met in part through technological solutions. Although technology can contribute to the solution of important environmental data management problems, human effort is still central to data center operations. Therefore, data centers should ensure that the latest technologies are assessed for relevance and utility but should not rely solely on technology without continuing to invest in the scientific and human elements of data management.

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