Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Liz McMillan, APM Blog, Elizabeth White, Xenia von Wedel, Mauro Carniel

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

A Cloud-Powered GIS App Store

The true power of Cloud is application delivery... arming the end user with choices

The day the "cloud-powered, vendor-neutral, GIS App Store" concept was born was probably one of the best and worst days of my life. That rainy Southern California morning in December 2008 marked the day that is responsible for fully consuming the following 483 days of my life with conference calls to countless vendors, writing seemingly endless API calls, and completely scrapping two beta systems before reaching our final goal: TheGISmarketplace.com. Ultimately our vision is to bring an end to GIS software vendor lock-in and facilitate virtually painless delivery of even the most complex GIS applications on a robust IT infrastructure... all powered by cloud computing.

That December 2008 day also marked the start of a mission for my team at Skygone. A mission to learn, understand and become experts on the system architecture and application designs of as many GIS server applications as possible; knowledge that later became indispensable as we created cloud-based deployments of these GIS technology for TheGISmarketplace.com. But, most importantly that day sparked a belief within our company, which continues today... by leveraging our application templating technology, cloud computing capabilities, and GIS App Store vision, we possess the potential to have more power and end-user impact than any multi-million dollar GIS software company on the planet... why?  For the simple fact that we aren't a software company at all.

The Cloud... Empowering End-User Choice
We use cloud computing to provide GIS users with the power to easily provision GIS applications and ultimately help them avoid vendor lock-in.  By providing production-ready environments in a pay-as-you-go model, customers have on-demand access to enterprise GIS applications from many different vendors.  Done using it or didn't work for you?  Ok, shut it down and stop paying.  Compare this model to the "traditional" sales cycle of large software vendors, where buyers must trust marketing claims, pay up-front licensing fees, and independently procure hardware before the implementation even begins; and we believe people will almost unanimously find the cloud deployment model a more desirable and user-friendly approach to software implementation.

Why Does Enterprise GIS Need an App Store?
The concept of the vendor-neutral App Store is to give end-users and technical buyers the ability to easily compare, deploy and integrate applications from many different GIS software vendors on a common platform. Some of the on-demand applications currently available on our platform include ArcGIS Server, MapServer, and GeoServer.  ERDAS and OpenGeo software will soon become available, quickly followed by many value-added, solution-focused products from small to medium sized GIS vendors.

Understanding the diversity in the GIS market is important since it plays directly into the need for a vendor-neutral App Store where customers can not only become aware of all their software choices, but actually prototype, test, and deploy into production different solutions from different vendors.  The market share in the GIS industry is more balanced and diverse than many people are aware. A 2009 Daratech report estimated the top three GIS software vendors owned only 56% of the market (ESRI ~30%, Intergraph ~16%, GE Smallworld ~8%), leaving a whopping 44% to those outside of the big three companies. Factor in ERDAS making huge market gains with their new APOLLO product release, Open Source GIS Server applications becoming an ever more popular choice among even the largest GIS enterprises, and a fully supported Open Source GIS product (think "RedHat Linux" model for GIS) by OpenGeo, and that leaves a juggernaut of information for organizations to swallow before making their GIS technology choice.

What Does This Have to Do With Cloud Computing?... Everything!
Our approach leverages what we believe is the true power and promise of cloud computing. To the majority of IT users, the real value of cloud computing is less about virtual machines, infinite scalability, and API's, and much more about simplifying the delivery of applications to their users. If you leverage the true power of cloud computing, it enables the delivery of much more than on-demand IT resources; it delivers "choice" and "ease of use" to end users.

We use cloud computing as a common platform in which our hosted GIS applications reside; however, it's obtusely over-simplifying things to say that the "cloud" powers our platform. Remember those two scrapped beta systems that we tried with other cloud providers that I mentioned above? They were eighty-sixed after several months of significant development, not just simple prototypes. Although this was incredibly counter-productive from a deliverables perspective, the education that resulted from those failed implementations enabled us to deliver a much more enterprise-class product in the end.

Our Choice of Cloud Platform
Our primary concern when selecting a Cloud platform was to make sure we met the demands of our customers currently running their enterprise GIS applications on their internal IT infrastructure.  Before we began building, we needed to know exactly what consisted within these "enterprise GIS" customer demands.  In response, we conducted what I would describe as "somewhat scientific" market research on how customers currently deploy enterprise GIS technology.  In short, this research showed that over 2/3 of the customers using enterprise GIS technology had their GIS Server "application stack" deployed in a multi-server configuration.  More surprisingly, it showed that almost 3/4 of the IT Managers at these organizations were frustrated with the GIS operations group because of their outside-of-the-box infrastructure demands.  Our reaction to these findings... a simultaneous "great!" and "crap!"

We knew that IT Managers being frustrated with GIS would play in our favor because they would be more likely to outsource something they did not covet.  However, the idea of convincing organizations to place their complex, multi-tier applications onto the currently available commercial cloud platforms that only provided the ability to spin up single virtual machines and not coherent, pre-configured, multi-tier applications was a daunting task.  If we couldn't find a better way to template and manage multi-tier apps, how were we ever going to get enterprise GIS customers onto the cloud?  Little did we know the answer was only 80 miles away at a little startup called 3tera.

Although 3tera has since been acquired by software giant CA Technologies, which makes them not such a little startup anymore; the ground-breaking multi-tier application feature that originally drew us to 3tera is still offered through their grid computing software called AppLogic.  In addition to multi-tier application support, there is no need for code changes or new installation scripts when placing an application on the AppLogic.  In contrast to the effort and customization required to template machine images on other cloud providers (i.e. AMI's), the application you create in AppLogic is simply "wrapped" and becomes a single object secured by its own dedicated firewall no matter how many application tiers, virtual machines, or NAS appliances you place inside that boundary.

This ability to take what 2/3 of enterprise GIS customers were already doing -deploying GIS Server applications in multi-tier configurations- into the cloud was the break-through we were waiting on and ended up changing our organization forever.

Unfortunately, just putting multi-tier apps in the cloud wasn't the only requirement we needed to satisfy.  3tera provided us amazing capabilities at the application level, but we also needed a way to easily deliver these robust applications to users across the globe.  So, we did what young companies do best... we built.  Using robust Intel Xeon 5500 series Nehalem Processors as our Hardware Layer, AppLogic as a Cloud Layer, and our App Store as the Catalog Layer, we built a Global Service Delivery Platform (GSDP) that sits on top of almost any worldwide data center infrastructure.

Our GSDP enables us with an easy way to provide global access to IT resources and most importantly, the GIS applications which reside upon it. In addition, the GSDP provides global load balancing capability from multiple locations worldwide, a feature that has proven to be vital as Content Delivery Networks (CDN) continue to fail to be a viable option for the GIS industry because of the local processing requirements of the applications on the associated data.

Lucky You
So, what's the moral of the story? Things are getting much easier for end users of GIS technology. The capabilities of cloud computing simplifies the long, daunting tasks of installing and maintaining complex GIS solutions.  Now end users will be able to complete extensive tasks like procuring hardware, installing servers in a data center, configuring networks, installing operations systems and installing GIS applications in a matter of minutes, rather than months.

If you are a GIS professional stuck with an IT manager's burden... consider the cloud your ticket to freedom.

More Stories By Ryan Hughes

Ryan Hughes, blogging at www.RyHug.com, is the Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) of Skygone (www.skygoneinc.com), a Cloud Computing solution provider to SI's, ISV's, Commercial, and Government. Education: MBA in Project Management from Penn State University; BS in GIS from Bowling Green State University Ryan currently has 10 years in Enterprise-level IT Program Management and Operations Management, as well as vast experience in Enterprise System Design and Cloud implementation methodology.

@CloudExpo Stories
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
Enterprises are moving to the cloud faster than most of us in security expected. CIOs are going from 0 to 100 in cloud adoption and leaving security teams in the dust. Once cloud is part of an enterprise stack, it’s unclear who has responsibility for the protection of applications, services, and data. When cloud breaches occur, whether active compromise or a publicly accessible database, the blame must fall on both service providers and users. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben Johnson, C...
"We're developing a software that is based on the cloud environment and we are providing those services to corporations and the general public," explained Seungmin Kim, CEO/CTO of SM Systems Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Data scientists must access high-performance computing resources across a wide-area network. To achieve cloud-based HPC visualization, researchers must transfer datasets and visualization results efficiently. HPC clusters now compute GPU-accelerated visualization in the cloud cluster. To efficiently display results remotely, a high-performance, low-latency protocol transfers the display from the cluster to a remote desktop. Further, tools to easily mount remote datasets and efficiently transfer...
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
"We're focused on how to get some of the attributes that you would expect from an Amazon, Azure, Google, and doing that on-prem. We believe today that you can actually get those types of things done with certain architectures available in the market today," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"NetApp is known as a data management leader but we do a lot more than just data management on-prem with the data centers of our customers. We're also big in the hybrid cloud," explained Wes Talbert, Principal Architect at NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...