Google Earth Enterprise: Where does it fit into the GIS landscape?

The main new feature in the latest version of Google Earth Enterprise, announced on Thursday, is that the Google Maps API engine can be run by corporations on their own servers, so that geospatial data can be served privately and securely to a web browser, without needing to use

What I think is interesting here is that over the past two years users of the free Google Maps API have in effect been beta testers for the enterprise version. Not that there is anything wrong with that:-)

Adding the ability to publish geospatial data via one’s private Google Maps API changes the competitive landscape somewhat. I asked Brian Flood how/if this most recent announcement has repercussions for Arc2Earth, a tool for exporting ArcGIS data into KML and mapping APIs including Google’s public Maps API. After all, Google Earth Enterprise also lets you publish KML superoverlays, so nominally, there are some overlapping functions. Here’s what Brian had to say:

Arc2Earth (as it was originally intended) is more for desktop ArcGIS users, the people who do not have servers, server software or the budget to buy them. In this regard, we will continue to have customers who want nothing more than quality import/export/publish of their ArcGIS data. Amazon S3 allows them to internet-enable their data very inexpensively, so this is also a big draw.

Google (for their Enterprise offering at least), MS and ESRI seem to be concentrating on big corporate users, as they should, that’s where the money is. I’m not sure where this will leave the middle tier users in the short term although I could see both providing “mashup” tools that could catch on for small, ad-hoc projects.

So, how do I see A2E fitting in going forward?

  1. Complimentary tool – We have several A2E clients using it as part of an overall workflow. As an example, one is a premier Google Enterprise site and they ended up getting a site license for A2E so all their ArcGIS users could publish KML files to a server location. The rest of the end users then got these updates automatically in GE via Network Links. In this regard, we are just part of, not the whole of the process. A2E Enterprise has the scheduler and command line tools for exporting tiles and kml, so this is great for batch updates and would work well alongside of any other enterprise products.
  2. New features – I think we keep pushing some of the boundaries of KML and tile creation. We have several custom projects that create millions of tiles a month. Also, when V2 of A2E is released (hopefully in August) we will be offering some cool new features. Vector regions, shared KML documents on S3 and many other goodies. Here’s a quick sample that shows vector data clipped to each region (which solves the large polygon with fill issue). There are still some issue with region activation and panning but this will be resolved before V2

    109th US Congress – ESRI Census data, entire US

    Somerset County Parcels 500,000 parcels (zoom straight in)

    Also, our implementation of regions has always been a little different than others as well, by using a uniform grid we can update portions of the whole at any time (a big feature for many of our users with large datasets who do not want to re-export everything).

  3. ArcGIS formats – this is more in relation to Goog and MS but A2E will export anything that can be viewed in ArcGIS, my guess is this will be a lot more than their offerings, so having A2E as part of the workflow helps for the more complex data.
  4. Lastly, as always, there are many people who cannot afford servers or server software at all. They have ArcGIS and need to get their data out there, this has been and will continue to be a great arena for A2E