Happy blog birthday, Declan, and you celebrate with insightful news. I too like the idea of Amazon’s EC2 computing-on-demand service — like Amazon’s S3 storage on demand, but where you rent processor cycles rather than networked storage. What I think it would be really useful for is server-side analysis tools for Google Earth, feeding network links.
In other words, the PHP scripts that I have running on my server for solving the traveling salesman problem in Google Earth or for finding the center of gravity could scale if they were run on EC2 (which might be necessary if they actually did something useful). And at 10 cents per computing hour, it would take very few clicks on Google ads to make this sustainable.
I’m wondering also if the open-source GeoServer might not work on this service. (Perhaps somebody already has managed to?) And since Google is very much into keeping content created for its applications in one place, semantically marked up and hosted for free (Google Earth Community, Picasa Web Albums, Google Spreadsheets), I can definitely see the logic for them in also hosting processes that enhance Google Earth.
Chris Holmes, who develops GeoServer, gave a TechTalk at Google in August. GeoServer already streams KML with code funded by Google. Might it not make a great platform for hosting services for Google Earth, on a Google version of Amazon’s EC2, free and ad-funded? I’m just speculating, but it would be really cool.
As we’ve been told repeatedly this week, ArcGIS Explorer does not want to compete with Google Earth because AGX exists primarily as a client for ArcGIS-created services and tools. But that doesn’t mean Google Earth can’t compete with ArcGIS Explorer by expanding into that market by harnessing open source apps like GeoServer.
6 thoughts on “Amazon’s EC2: Something for hosting Google Earth services?”
“As we’ve been told repeatedly this week, ArcGIS Explorer does not want to compete with Google Earth because AGX exists primarily as a client for ArcGIS-created services and tools. But that doesn’t mean Google Earth can’t compete with ArcGIS Explorer by expanding into that market by harnessing open source apps like GeoServer.”
And in fact you can use ArcGIS Server to create KML that can be viewed in Google Earth.
True, but what I have in mind is an open source alternative to ArcGIS server that is hosted by Google. It would be free, and it would encourage tinkerers and hackers and GIS students to post their creativity.
In the university setting most students have unlimited access to ArcGIS products. It really isn’t much of a problem for students who want access to GIS servers to get it.
For me the relevant technology for such a setup in the immediate term would be the open source PostgreSQL/PostGIS spatial database which would give you the basic analysis tools (buffering, intersecting, clipping, distance measures) right out of the box and Internet-ready via PHP scripting. That alone would go a long way towards answering the spatial questions the average user may have: how far? how much within x distance? where are the closest x features?, etc. Add in a routing module (PgRouting) and if you need heavy-weight raster analysis (e.g. slope and elevation calcs) throw in GRASS, and you could potentially cover a lot of ground that traditionally has been GIS-dominated.
The great thing about it is when that someone makes it easy, intuitive, and fast to get answers to spatial questions and see the results in an absorbing interface, they won’t know–and definitely won’t care–that what they’re doing is “GIS”…
Well, if they are going to go open source Geoserver for serving the data, why would they not just take the next step and just use World Wind instead of GE then to view the imagery?
Chad, one reason I can think of is that they want to offer services that use up resources that they can pay for. Hence an advertising-driven model. You have to admit, the Google Earth’s free content is amazingly detailed. I don’t see that easily achieved via an open source initiative.
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