Monday, August 16, 2010

GIS & Cloud Computing

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” – National Institute of Standards and Technology defines Cloud computing like this.

Pioneers in cloud computing arena are Salesforce, Google, IBM and Amazon to name a few. Cloud computing enables organizations to scale down their investments for hardware and software. Maintenance costs are also reduced. There are several deployment models like public cloud, community cloud, hybrid cloud and private cloud.
Cloud storage is another widely adopted usage.  Service models include Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Typically in any cloud based environment application software, high capacity servers and storage platforms are hosted in a remote location in a secure manner. The end user usually has access to web-browser like interface from where he/she can carry out the assigned work. 

Given the advantages cloud computing has to offer, such facilities are also extended to the GIS domain. GIS Cloud (http://www.giscloud.com/) and Esri (http://www.esri.com/technology-topics/cloud-gis/index.html)  are leading providers of Cloud GIS.

GIS Cloud is a full feature web based GIS. It is available for free as well as pay-per-use model with advanced features. It works on Software as a Service (SaaS) model. GIS Cloud uses a map engine based on Adobe Flash for efficient vector rendering. GIS Cloud is capable of handling both raster and vector data. Widely used vector formats by Esri, MapInfo, Google Earth and raster formats like GeoTiff are supported. Prominent features include facility to organize and share projects, create and edit spatial and non-spatial data, import, analysis and export. Its also mentioned in the GIS  Cloud webiste that support for mobile devices will be coming soon.

Esri, through its widely used ArcGIS platform is providing excellent opportunities for organizations. Maybe since ArcGIS 9 release, a user is provided the facility to use online satellite imagery resources for reliable cartographic operations. ArcGIS 9.3.1 customers can even use Bing Maps with a license from Esri. This facility comes by default with ArcGIS 10. Other than this Esri provides preconfigured ArcGIS Server Machine Images  (AMI) for use with Amazon Cloud Infrastructure. There is another cloud based offering from Esri which includes access to full GIS capabilities.

Some of the cloud based GIS Service/ Software for enterprise usage -
  1. Skygone – http://www.skygoneinc.com/
  2. ERDAS Appolo on the Cloud – http://www.erdas.com/Products/ERDASProductInformation/tabid/84/currentid/3579/objectid/3579/default.aspx