Geoprocessing Sandboxes as a Service

Though I haven’t used it in production, I really like the ESRI geoprocessing server concept. ESRI’s approach involves authoring, publishing and consuming. However, from what I can tell, it requires authors to do their work inside the firewall.

I contend that authoring from outside the firewall would have business value.

For example, say I’m a data vendor with a very large geodatabase. My business model involves selling cpu cycles, data i/o, memory usage etc. I’m too busy keeping my data accurate and current to mess with writing all sorts of geoprocessing models. Instead, I would like to provide a platform where others author the models and I simply charge them for resources used.

Users would create an account with their credit card, similar to Amazon Web Services. Once they have an account they may create .NET assemblies and submit them as a job, perhaps via REST. The server runs the assembly within a sandbox, measuring database i/o, cpu cycles, memory usage etc. and applies charges to the user’s account accordingly. By running within the firewall, the assembly has more efficient access to the DBMS so that much more interesting things may be done.

To make it easier for authors, I would provide Visual Studio plugins to assist the development of assemblies. Perhaps they submit source code to the service, and let the server compile it. Or maybe something like the new dynamic lookup would allow me to test with a local small sample database, then once I got it working submit it to the server. Or better yet, maybe a thinclient IDE that allows editing of code on the server itself. Maybe ESRI could web-enable modelbuilder?

The submitted job could be configured to stay alive, and the user could then, in turn, sell use of his service to his own subscribers. This would be similar to weogeo‘s concept but with services instead of data.

In a way, this would be crowdsourcing the development of geoprocessing models. Doing something like this would allow ESRI to bring in more developers (authors) of ArcGIS server applications. Right now the cost of ArcGIS server is just too high both in terms of license costs and administration. Perhaps Amazon will spatially enable SimpleDB so that in conjunction with EC2 authors of services will have a low-cost platform.

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