GeoWorld September 2011

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 3 of 31

Will 'The Cloud' Cover Everything? POSITION T BY TODD DANIELSON his September 2011 issue of GeoWorld has a focus on cloud computing and Web-based GIS, but it quickly became more focused on the issue of cloud computing and how it relates to the geotechnology industry. Is that because I randomly selected articles that happened to focus on that element, or is cloud computing becoming a more-pressing issue than the longer- established arena of Web-based GIS? Web-based GIS has been around for a long time. When I started working for this magazine 15 years ago, the Internet was just coming into common use, and GIS tools were, for the most part, desktop based. That started to change with, which caused shockwaves with its billion- dollar purchase by AOL. Soon after that, most GIS compa- nies began to introduce Web versions of their products. Most started out as simple Web interfaces, similar to MapQuest, but with more functionality. The "heavy lifting," however, still was done on desktop software. But through the years, Web GIS evolved into slick and powerful applica- tions in which most geospatial work could be done online and shared with a variety of users. Esri's latest version of ArcGIS Online is an excellent example of what now can be done on the Web. Many users need nothing else. Todd Danielson is editor of GeoWorld magazine, PO Box 773498, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477; e-mail: 4 GEO W ORLD / SEPTEMBE R 2O11 To the Cloud The success of Web-based mapping and vast improvements in hardware performance and lower costs led to the next step: cloud computing. Wikipedia provides a simple and succinct defini- tion: "Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet)." To me, the important phrase there is "as a service rather than a product." Many users no longer want to purchase a GIS to do the tasks they need done. They just want a service that helps them do their jobs better and faster, and cloud-based GIS seems to be the answer for a lot of those people. According to the Esri Web site, the following describes how users can take advantage of the cloud: "There are several opportunities to leverage cloud services throughout an ArcGIS system implementation," notes the site. "By example, with the release of ArcGIS Server on the Amazon Web Services Elastic Compute Cloud, one can quickly provision GIS servers on established cloud infrastructures rather than use their own local data centers, to automatically scale to meet unpre- dictable or sporadic demand." Further Examples Fortunately, the articles in this issue provide a much broader look at cloud computing and its various uses. Industry analyst Tina Cary provides an excellent starting point with "Cloud Computing— Where Will It Take Geotechnology?" This article, on page 14, provides a perfect "primer" to get caught up to speed on the general uses of cloud-based services. Then Kyle Wilcox and Tiffany C. Vance provide a more-specific example of how scientists used cloud computing to analyze fish larva dispersion in the open ocean. Check out "Ride the Wave— Ocean Scientists Use Cloud Computing to Model Dispersion" on page 18. And our third article on the subject, "Geospatial Data Collection—From the Field to the Cloud," by Chris Gerecke on page 22, shows how federal government users can use cloud-based GIS to provide a better return on investment than standalone systems. It's a great mix that should provide insight to our readers, so we can better understand why forecasters are predicting a heavy dose of "clouds" in our future.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of GeoWorld - GeoWorld September 2011