Since its introduction in 2002/2003, the current generation of the Delft-FEWS operational forecasting platform has found application in over forty operational centres. In these it is used to link data and models in real time, producing forecasts on a daily basis. In some cases it forms a building block of a country-wide national forecasting system using distributed client-server technology. In other cases it is applied at a much smaller scale on a simple desktop workstation, providing forecasts for a single basin. The flexibility of the software in open integration of models and data has additionally appealed to the research community. This paper discusses the principles on which the Delft-FEWS system has been developed, as well as a brief background of the architecture of the system and concepts used for storing and handling data. One of the key features of the system is its flexibility in integrating (third-party) models and data, and the available approaches to linking models and accessing data are highlighted. A brief overview of different applications of the system is given to illustrate how the software is used to support differing objectives in the domain of real time environmental modelling. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.