demystifying the clOud
esri’s victOria kOuyOumjian remOves sOme Of the mystery surrOunding clOud
cOmputing and its applicatiOn tO the geO wOrld.
Cloud computing is a rapidly emerging technology that almost of a static system architecture, cloud computing supports the ability
every industry that provides or consumes software, hardware, and to dynamically scale up and quickly scale down, offering cloud
infrastructure can leverage including the GIS industry. GIS and IT consumers high reliability, quick response times, and the flexibility
managers see the promise of the cloud as a compelling argument to handle unpredictable traffic fluctuations and sporadic demand.
for leveraging off-premises hardware resources and on-demand Cloud computing also supports multitenancy, providing systems
services to reduce costs and improve workflow efficiencies. Esri’s configured in such a way that they can be pooled to be shared by
cloud GIS offerings allow customers and prospects to augment and many organizations or individuals. Virtualization technology allows
complement their existing IT and GIS portfolios with the ubiquity cloud vendors to convert one server into many virtual machines,
and economy that cloud computing can afford without forfeiting thereby eliminating client/server computing with single-purpose
powerful geospatial functionality and geoprocessing requirements systems. This maximizes hardware capacity and allows customers to
they have come to expect. leverage economies of scale.
What Is Cloud Computing? Cloud Service Models
Although there are several variations on the definition of cloud Three core options compose the service models within the cloud
computing, some basic tenets characterize this emerging computing environment.
environment. Cloud computing furnishes technological Software as a Service (SaaS). SaaS comprises end-user
capabilities – commonly maintained off-premises – that are applications delivered as a service rather than as traditional
delivered on demand as a service via the Internet. For public on-premises software. The most commonly referenced example
cloud services, since a third party provides access to the applications of SaaS is Salesforce.com, which provides a customer relationship
and infrastructure, consumers of public cloud services do not own management (CRM) system accessible via the Internet.
the assets in this cloud model but instead pay for them on a per-use Platform as a Service (PaaS). PaaS provides an application
basis. In essence, they are renting the physical infrastructure and platform, or middleware, as a service on which developers can build
applications within a shared architecture. Cloud offerings can range and deploy custom applications. Common solutions provided in
from data storage to end-user web applications to other focused this tier range from APIs and tools to database and business process
computing services. management systems to security integration, allowing developers
One critical difference between traditional and cloud computing to build applications and run them on the infrastructure that the
is the scalable and elastic nature cloud computing provides. Instead cloud vendor owns and maintains. Microsoft’s Windows Azure
46 March 2011 | Geoconnexion international Magazine
platform services are often referenced as PaaS solutions at this
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IaaS primarily encompasses the
hardware and technology for computing power, storage, operating
systems, or other infrastructure, delivered as off-premises, on-demand
services rather than as dedicated on-site resources. Examples
include the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2),
Terremark, and others.
Cloud computing provides opportunities for organizations to
become more cost-effective, productive, and flexible to rapidly
deliver new capabilities.
One of the most attractive features of consuming cloud
infrastructure is the procurement process. A server or other on- Cloud-based content, servers, and applications provide cost-effective and
demand cloud service can often be provisioned within a day, or even flexible opportunities for organizations to deliver and consume GIS content
minutes, instead of the days, weeks, or months it takes to maneuver and services.
through a traditional procurement process.
The pay-as-you-go pricing model is often quite flexible when Deployment Options in the Cloud
renting cloud applications or infrastructure, allowing prospective There are several types of cloud computing deployment scenarios. The
cloud clients to “try before they buy,” while existing cloud consumers National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is emerging as
can pay in advance to take advantage of volume discounts and satisfy the preferred provider of the de facto definition of cloud computing
budget forecasting requirements. Renting assets shifts the duty of and the distribution models, as described below.
maintaining on-premises data centers to the cloud vendor, alleviating
the customer’s responsibility for software and hardware maintenance, Public Cloud
ongoing operation, and support. The public cloud is the most commonly referenced cloud computing
Ideally, cloud clients should be confident they are consuming deployment option. In this scenario, the infrastructure and applications
state-of-the-art systems that are highly reliable and flexible enough to are owned by the organization selling cloud services.
handle large traffic fluctuations. The burden, then, is on the vendor to
scale and continually reinvest in the on-demand IT architecture and Private Cloud
service so that consumers are consistently provided with a robust, Since many traditional vendors and users are not quite ready to jump
updated solution. into public cloud computing or are restricted from doing so, the
Moving parts of the corporate data and computing center to the cloud service tiers are replicated within a private cloud environment,
cloud also helps connect fragmented infrastructure while driving behind the firewall, and maintained within the parameters of the host
down up-front capital spending. As monies are reallocated for organization.
investment in core business, other initiatives could be launched in the
cloud to provide direct value to customers and employees, giving the Community Cloud
organization a competitive advantage. The notion of a community cloud is typically a private or public cloud
With the practice of outsourcing and offshoring growing, leading deployment that is shared by several organizations and supports a
to the creation of a global workforce, team productivity depends on specific community.
the power of networks and the Internet as a common platform. As
such, cloud services are available 24/7, accessible from any browser on Hybrid Cloud
any device regardless of time zone. This provides faster, easier access Many believe that the sweet spot for cost optimization in an
for workers to do their jobs, allowing competitive differentiation for organization will rely on a delicate balance of public, or community,
the organization and, likewise, retaining and attracting valuable and and private clouds. However, since this hybrid cloud solution is
talented staff. commonly bound together by proprietary technology, it will only be
A FEW CLOUD BENEFITS
Lower Total Cost of Ownership Reduce ongoing and life cycle
Increased Availability Always on, always available
Faster Application Delivery Expedites time to market;
Flexible Model Scales by demand; no wasted
Enables Collaboration and Platform for easier and faster
Community Computing information sharing, mobile
Improved Business Continuity Inexpensive disaster recovery
Rental Pricing Model Pay-as-you-go; pay-in-advance;
Each service category can be leveraged independently or consumed in try before you buy
combination with other service tiers.
ArcGIS and the Cloud
Esri considers cloud computing and
technology important in the development
and vision of the ArcGIS platform. Several
options are available for companies that want
to improve productivity and efficiency while
reducing expenses and freeing up valuable IT
resources to concentrate on newer business
GIS services are available in the cloud
so that ArcGIS users and developers can
access ready-to-use maps including imagery,
topography, and street basemaps as well as
task services such as routing and geocoding
for North America and Europe.
ArcGIS Server can be deployed in the
cloud via Amazon EC2 so that organizations
and developers can publish and quickly
deploy custom GIS mapping applications
Some organizations, concerned within minutes.
about security, may opt for SaaS provides focused, cloud-based clients
a private cloud or a hybrid and applications that easily solve complex
deployment model. business problems using GIS tools and data
but don’t require GIS expertise to use.
Mobile GIS services are coming to the
embraced by enterprise computing in the can scrutinize the uptime (and downtime) of cloud soon so that an organization’s field staff,
future as standards are developed. Amazon Web Services and Google App Engine business professionals, and consumers can
through CloudStatus.com to determine how access GIS capabilities and data using nearly
Risks in the Cloud healthy the services have been, monitoring any mobile device.
Despite cloud computing’s many benefits, their track record of service failures, latency, Esri has been providing Software plus
it’s important to be aware of the risks and and throughput. And finally, as of yet, there Service (S+S) for some time, allowing
concerns when doing business in a cloud are no standards to ensure interoperability or customers to leverage their on-premises
architecture. free movement between cloud providers. As solutions with on-demand services. Esri’s
Security and privacy are two of IT such, cloud consumers should also be aware ArcGIS Online map and GIS services
professionals’ top concerns when considering of vendor lock in when moving forward in the provide S+S users immediate access to
moving to the cloud, either as a vendor, broker, cloud ecosystem. cartographically designed, seamless basemaps
or consumer. There have been instances of When consuming cloud services, clearly, to which they can easily add their own data in
security breaches, for instance, with Salesforce. it’s important to recognize the potential an Esri on-premises product. As a community
com and Google Docs, that should serve as hazards and risks, as with any new or existing cloud, the ArcGIS Online Content Sharing
reminders to be vigilant and cautious in the IT investment. Concerns about security, Program enables users and organizations
on-demand marketplace. Typical security inquiries around the provider’s maturation to contribute geographic data content.
and privacy examples include data storage in an incubating industry, reliability, and Leveraging Amazon’s EC2 and S3 compute
and data transfer protection, vulnerability regulatory issues are all topics for discussion and storage services allows Esri to host the
management and remediation, personnel and and clarification in a service-level agreement content and provide access 24/7. ArcGIS
physical security, application security, data (SLA). Although not a guarantee, to better Explorer users can consume ready-to-use
privacy, and identity management. ensure delivery of best practices in the cloud, basemaps and layers from ArcGIS Online
Depending on your industry, customer SLAs with the cloud vendor are recommended Services in the S+S model. And ArcLogistics
base, or public or private organization, when consuming cloud services. Realistically, provides software and access to online
compliance requirements exist that must be these concerns are not too different from services that help users create optimal vehicle
met and secured. Some compliance concerns those that one would have choosing any routes and schedules.
include business continuity and disaster third-party provider or service. In fact, there is
recovery; security standards; logs and audit a school of thought that cloud data centers Useful Links
trails; and specific standards and governmental are more secure than on-premises, private, ArcGIS Online - www.arcgis.com/home/
compliance requirements such as Sarbanes computer data centers. For instance, unlike ArcLogistics - www.esri.com/software/arclo-
Oxley, Payment Card Industry (PCI), and the many established public cloud vendors, gistics/index.html
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability a typical on-premises data center is not ArcGIS Mobile - www.esri.com/software/arc-
Act of 1996 (HIPAA). designed for resilience to attacks and failures; gis/arcgismobile/index.html
There are specific legal concerns when may not have the latest security patches, ArcGIS Server in the Cloud - www.esri.com/
providing cloud services and, subsequently, upgrades, or updates; and the notion of software/arcgis/arcgisserver/cloud.html
consuming them. These revolve around disaster recovery and business continuity can BAO – www.esri.com/software/bao/index.html
liability and recourse, intellectual property often be an afterthought. Article by Victoria Kouyoumjian, who works
issues and terms, and vendor transparency As barriers to entry into cloud computing as the IT Strategies Architect of Esri’s Techni-
regarding location of recovery data centers. continue to fall away, confidence in cloud cal Marketing Division, focusing on emerging
When relying on an Internet service, there is vendors will be established through repeated markets and technology trends. Victoria holds
always a question of availability and the peak- successful experiences, testimonials, and an MBA, as well as a BS in Geography and a BA
load capacity that the vendor can carry. For proven reliability with respect to operating in English. You can follow and connect with
example, current and prospective customers procedures and performance. her on Twitter at @VKouyoumjian.
48 March 2011 | Geoconnexion international Magazine