I'm looking for an open source cloud GIS solution.

Current situation: Up to 100gb of data stored in file geodatabases that is updated daily. Data is used to create maps as well as geoprocessing tasks.

Ideally I only want one copy of the data however it needs to be shared across multiple companies working on the project who will also be adding new data and updating old. The GIS users are using ArcGIS Desktop v10.1 but for the rest of the project team I would like to have a data viewer that can do simple tasks such as measure and buffer. If we could create a few custom tools for the data viewer that would be great.

So my main criteria is Data storage:

  • Store large volumes
  • Good access from anywhere
  • Quick and easy to update
  • Manageable from custom front end?
  • Easy to share data
  • Secure
  • Backed up
  • Permission levels

Data viewer:

  • Good symbology
  • Transparency
  • Good base mapping
  • Deal with different projections
  • Fast
  • 2D and 3D?
  • ID tool
  • Link through to documents/images
  • Add simple tools
  • Zoom and measure
  • View CAD and GIS, raster, vect, TIN
  • Good access
  • Create features
  • Add in data and coords
  • Permission levels

I am hoping to achieve a solution that is cost effective and well supported. I'm thinking it will be a bolt together solution made up of multiple components but I just don't know where to start.

There are better options than file geodatabases for storing the data which are better suited to multiple access but I can't remember what they are called (still an ESRI database)? Happy to use large database functionality attached onto them such as SQL or Oracle - would this help? I don't have ArcGIS Server only desktop which we'd like to remain using.... Surely open-source elements can still use ESRI desktop? I haven't had much joy with decent viewers either - the only two nice ones I have seen are Autodesks Infrastructure Modeller (Autodesk 360) and Google Earth Builder.... I know there is a price to pay for those two but if there is nothing open source that matches then I would be willing to pay. Apparently ArcGIS Online doesn't allow you to even interrogate raster images which would be no use to us as we deal with height data a lot. Hence this is probably going to be a miss match of all sorts of software but I'm sure I can get something working? I would also like a customised metadata editor rather than the nasty one in ArcCatalog... Something that would log the incoming data in a database and also apply that same metadata to the feature classes in the geodatabases automatically. I don't like producing lose XMLs like you get with shapefiles. Am I just setting unrealistic targets with pie in the sky dreaming or do you think something is achievable?

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    Does it need to be ACID , or can it be Eventually Consistent? – Kirk Kuykendall Nov 30 '12 at 20:32
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    That's some wishlist you have there. I doubt there's something that would fit what you're asking out of the box. You'd have to customize it. – R.K. Dec 2 '12 at 2:25
  • I know it's a bit older post but check GIS Cloud giscloud.com – GIS Cloud Sep 5 '14 at 11:30

stored in file geodatabases

File geodatabases are the enemy of open source - if you change this to PostGIS or shapefiles, or similar, you'll have more luck.

Otherwise you're looking for a ton of features. You'll have some luck with GeoServer, but otherwise you might want to reconsider the scope of what you're looking for.

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    I wouldn't want to manage up to 100GB of data in shapefiles – tomfumb Nov 30 '12 at 23:39
  • GDAL supports read/write of FileGDB so it can be read by most Geospatial Open Source packages. I can think of several formats where this is not true and thus are more "enemies" of OS – Ragi Yaser Burhum Dec 1 '12 at 16:14
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    GDAL supports read/write FileGDB via a closed-source SDK. Not as bad as other formats, but still terrible. – tmcw Dec 1 '12 at 17:08
  • +1 for PostGIS and -1 for Shapefiles. Shapefiles are great for lazy one-off data sharing between consenting adults but otherwise they are nasty, not least because not all software implements the format exactly the same. – MappaGnosis Dec 3 '12 at 20:57

My suggestion would be to use the osgeo stack. Specifically, I have used this stack in the Amazon Cloud (AWS) to serve out large raster and vector data sets.

Postgresql with postgis stores my vector data Geoserver / Geowebcache servers the vector data and tiles those large datasets for serving. Everything runs through the browser using OpenLayers.

I bailed on GeoExt and have been rolling solutions using Geodjango / jQuery with a bunch of success.

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Below answer is based on my experience in enterprise system design, which is heavily based on Esri solutions. This is just general advice based on what you have given.


shared across multiple companies working on the project who will also be adding new data and updating old

Forget SHPs, forget fGDBs, store it in a DBMS that supports spatial types. For your bullet points for data storage, a DBMS does all these things. PostgreQL is open source and has a great community. It supports both raster and vector spatial types (no ArcSDE req).

If you keep the ArcGIS Desktop clients, they can pull this data in fine.

Data Viewer

cost effective and well supported

The GIS users are using ArcGIS Desktop v10.1 but for the rest of the project team I would like to have a data viewer

Use the free version of ArcGIS Explorer Desktop (not to be confused with the ArcGIS Explorer Online client). Its far from open source, but its free and in my eyes its a very powerful client perfect for your requirements. Theres actually a new version coming out imminently that looks awesome. enter image description here

Looking at your requirements, I believe it ticks all the boxes. Based on your clients, I would go with a thick client as opposed to a web-based client. This would mean they need to download/install this client, but you can centralise settings if every one of your users can point to a single application configuration file. You mention 3D, so that was another reason I choose this application. 3D in the browser is very close, but not just yet.

However, the caveat with this viewer, is that at the time of writing, it looks like it wont pull in spatial data direct from a DBMS, unless it has been registered as a geodatabase. This could be a showstopper for you, as you would need to use an ArcSDE license to do this. It does support pulling in WMS, so if you include a GIS Server like Mapserver into your stack, then this could serve out the data from PostgreSQL as WMS, to be consumed in ArcGIS Explorer Desktop.

Please see other answers for alternative viewers (or if I have time for more thinking, ill come back and edit this A).


shared across multiple companies

Multiple organisations usually means active directory authentication is not an option. Make use of security at the postgreSQL level to create logins for each organisation. You mention cloud, so nothing stopping you serving postgreSQL up from a provider like AWS. Shop around for prices from other providers in your region. AWS will already have template AMIs with postgreSQL already loaded up on.

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    Thanks very much for the Advice Simon. I have used arcGIS explorer desktop both the download and the online version and have never had that much success with pulling in data from file geodatabases..... Very very slow and the symbology is pretty awful. The data we use is generally environmental data so needs quite scientific symbology... Graduated symbols, categorised rasters, admiralty chart symbols, etc. – Georgina Dec 2 '12 at 10:11
  • Maybe give the new version a whirl just to see if its still same issues. resources.arcgis.com/en/communities/arcgis-explorer-desktop/… Failing that, I like Jzl5325 answer. – Simon Dec 2 '12 at 10:15
  • .... I was looking on my iPhone 4S last night and the mapping software on there is great... 2d and 3D with aerial and if you play around on London the 3D buildings pop up really quick.... – Georgina Dec 2 '12 at 10:20

What you want can all be done with several different open source components. Nevertheless, your requirements are too ambitious, and you will not find a single package/installer that is a turn-key solution.

Host it at AWS. Look at Geoserver. Store it in PostGIS. Custom build with Django.

These things are Open Source, so it means you have different alternatives for each project with different advantages/disadvantages.

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    Thanks Ragi, I'll look into those components :) I do realise it will be a bolt together solution but it so hard to pick and research every single one – Georgina Dec 1 '12 at 17:58

Amazon EC2 will be a good solution for your Geodatabases (though can get expensive being ESRI)

Scalable on demand—If you need more computing power, you can launch additional EC2 instances, which you can think of as virtual servers on Amazon's cloud that are all created from the same parent AMI. Creating new instances can even be done programmatically in response to usage statistics. New instances can be created in a matter of minutes, allowing your ArcGIS Server to gracefully respond to abrupt spikes in traffic.

Amazon provides a load balancer that you can use to route traffic to the different instances. When you no longer need the instances, you can destroy them and incur no further charges for them.

How do you make Amazon Cloud GIS Server accessible outside local environment?

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Maintaining conditions you have, Jelastic can be a better solution, Its supports all aspects of GIS like - GeoNetwork deegree OpenLayers and super easy to implement.

Follow the link - http://blog.jelastic.com/2013/07/29/gis-software-geonetwork-deegree-openlayers/

This blog maintained every details to implement the same

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http://www.gishosting.gter.it/home/ is a new solution actually developed in italian but available everywhere. It use QGIS, QGIS-server, Lizmap web-client and (optionally) PostGIS and is totally open source based .

Disclosure: I'm a developer of the GIsHosting solution.

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