I'm working on a web app that includes mapping capabilities (currently just markers and KML overlays on an embedded Google Map). We're starting to outgrow the limitations of Google's free stuff, and Google Earth Enterprise initially seemed to be the natural upgrade path. But at least judging from the tags on this site, it doesn't seem like it gets a lot of use in the GIS community.

Has anyone used GEE who could compare it to the more widely used server platforms?

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    What exactly are the limitations of google maps you are encountering? That would be the most important factor in choosing another platform.
    – johanvdw
    Nov 6, 2012 at 20:26
  • Regarding product costs: I'm at a Rice in Houston, a research university, so we are given (thanks!) free access to ArcGIS Desktop and Google Earth Pro and also have two ArcGIS experts in our Library. Just pointing out that Education and Nonprofits don't have the same concerns as private developers and companies. I should check if I can wrangle a Google Earth Enterprise educational license and report back. Also, I recommend developers check the universities in their area to see if they can get free access to GIS products or training. I liked Mapperz comment above that "GEE really is a vis
    – agrahamt
    Nov 7, 2012 at 16:01
  • Hi Agramt, welcome to GIS.se! It's good to see you here and I'm sure time spent here will be fruitful, for you and the community. Your post isn't really an answer to the question, but a series of related comments and observations of your own, inviting further conversation. We keep a signal to noise ratio by keeping things tight(ish) and focussed; single threads as opposed to tapestry. For conversation please use Chat (link at top). Nov 9, 2012 at 17:43

6 Answers 6


Personally, I would steer clear of the ESRI stuff. I'm working with ESRI Geodatabases and find the restrictions perplexing and restrictive. The Enterprise offering may be different, but I choose not to hold my breath. (This is a biased opinion, and I'm suggesting you do some research and make your own decision here. I have little experience with ArcServer, but a fair bit with ArcGeodatabases(SDE,FGDB,PGDB)...which I do not like)

Google Earth Enterprise Server
Google Earth Enterprise Server is a great offering. But be prepared to pay for the infrastructure and data required to drive it. A simple installation and a 15m globe data set will set you back about $(AUD)600,000 (for critical infrastructure level redundancy and some data). There was about 16tb supporting the data storage for the globe and the required resources.

Then you have user expectations to deal with. If someone sees a Google Earth Client icon on their desktop, they'll expect the Google Pro experience, not it's anorexic cousin. This is what we found, the managers came down hard on us for not delivering the full Google experience, but balked at the price tag for such a service. The solution is to buy Google Pro licenses and layer globes, with your data sitting on top of the Google Pro offering, but here you're adding costs.

What you're paying for there is essentially a fancy UI's over GeoWebCache, GeoServer on top of a Google modified Apache Server (Tomcat). Somewhat over simplified, but they are the basics.

The Google Support Folk are very helpful and will assist you as much as they can to get it working, but the raster data sets accepted for your globe are restricted to GeoTIFF and JP2000 in WGS84-LL. So be prepared to have some data processing infrastructure with that as well. For vector dataset, Oracle Spatial, PostGIS, and any other flavour of geodatabase are out of the question for vector storage. Look at Shapefile and MapInfo Tab for that. This is frustrating and restrictive.

But as @DEWright said, its great for visualisation, pretty much useless for anything else. There are things you can customise, but you'll need to get creative. The most common method for instantiating anything within Google Earth Client, was to have a Webpage that formulated your query or triggered a process where a KML was the response. This dynamic KML was then opened in Google Earth Enterprise Client, where navigation to other resources could be controlled through hyperlinks in balloons. I'm happy to diagram this to give you a better idea.

PM me for more information on Google Earth Enterprise Server...I spent 2 years working with this product to get it to do inventive things and integrate into an environment

GeoServer and GeoWebCache
Great and Free! Most people on this forum will give you some great feed back on these products. What I came across was, generally the same thing, but it is only recently that GeoServer has stepped up to deliver a tighter package.

The Styler is helpful, but buggy (at least v2.0 was), GeoWebCache was a separate feature/service on a different port(this has changed), it didn't chain WMS(it does now), and it doesn't integrate with Active Directory(may not be an issue for you, but was for my project).

Best of all it now supports WPS (web processing services). I used this in conjunction with Google Earth Enterprise Server. Google is great at Visualising data, poor at delivering it for analysis. GeoServer has great connectivity with a multitude of data formats and a great GUI for Administration.

The community is active, and consistent with releases, bug fixes and updates, and there is a great amount of information on the Web for support.

It will ingest your current KML's, as well as deliver data as KML. The reflected KML feature is nifty in that only the data is in your current view is streamed to your Google interface. This will allow you to surpass your 15MB limit....a lot. I've had a 600mb data set in an oracle spatial database be delivered to a Google Earth Client with response times around 5 seconds (using optimisation techniques in the DB and GeoWebCache)

The biggest benefit is your data is completely open. It can be served to any number of clients because it is OGC compliant.

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    I hope no one is offended by my ESRI remark. I did qualify it by stating that it is not in my expertise. Explanations for down votes are useful for readers of this answer to get a better community view of its standing. Please qualify your down votes with comments. May 19, 2011 at 13:33
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    I didn't downvote, but your remark about ESRI certainly doesn't do justice to ArcGIS Server/ArcGIS JavaScript SDK/ArcGIS Silverlight SDK which are extremely powerful. Almost certainly more powerful than GeoServer (although of course very far from free).
    – MarkJ
    Jun 13, 2011 at 14:59
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    I'd have to agree with @MarkJ that the comments on Esri aren't 100% fair, at least without further explanation as to exactly what's missing/lacking. For the requirements listed by @Herb there's nothing to suggest Esri wouldn't be suitable. Great response on GEE and GeoServer, though :) Jun 21, 2011 at 6:49
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    I do agree that my comment about ESRI isn't entirely fair. I should have qualified my comment with the point that I'm not familiar with ESRI's enterprise offering, excluding ArcSDE, of which I have sound experience. I'd strongly encourage anyone looking at an enterprise solution take a pragmatic, repeatable approach in selecting a viable solution (Community wiki??). My comment was based on first generation ArcIMS technology, which made me grey. Jul 11, 2011 at 19:56
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    It's great to hear from someone who's spent significant time in the trenches with GEE. At the approaching 1 million dollar implementation price tag there's not so many of you around! I'd love to hear a conversation between you and someone of comparable experience and similar sized implementation budget using Esri technologies, and an open source stack too for that matter. Nov 9, 2012 at 17:36

GEE really is a visualization platform, not a enterprise GIS. With a true GIS you also have the need/ability to create data and do more complex analysis with it aside from draping it over a globe. I have worked with systems where GEE was a compliment to our ESRI systems; so we didn't use ArcGIS Explorer to view the data, the users used Google Earth.

You can make a lot of arguments for either solution, but in the end you are left with what do you need, if viewing a globe with points/polygons is your visualization target, then GEE may be best; but if you also want to be able to create good cartographic outputs or do more complex data building and analysis then you probably want to look to a enterprise GIS platform.

There are a lot of pros to the AGS direction, seamless publication etc, but there are also the long term costs.


Google Earth is mostly nice visualization, not serious GIS.

And may be that's a reason why you dont see much of it being discussed here :)

ESRI AGS on the other hand is a Industry Standard GIS...super serious stuff, tons of features out of the box, plus plethora of customization options make it the numero uno choice for most of the enterprise GIS deployments.

Additionally, it works with all the major databases like Oracle, DB2, SQL Server and PostGRE SQL.


For me, it is down to requirements. If the users just need to visualise basic data, then Google may be the way to go, but, and a big BUT, if you ned to capture, create, edit, analyse, crunch data, geo-processing, bespoke interfaces, web-publishing, web services etc etc, then ESRI products are the way to go. ESRI also ensure their products interface with multiple complimentary products, databases, SAP and are scalable, etc. Either way you are going to incur costs - and a business case would need to be developed.


This isn't really a response to the initial question about Google Earth Enterprise (which I haven't used) but more to the series of responses already made. I'm comparing Google Earth (not Maps) to the ArcGIS examples I've looked at - maybe ESRI's ArcGlobe can approximate some or all of Google Earth's features.

I identified with Optimize Prime's initial post. I am still fairly new to GIS but have a graphics background and for a year have been building maps in Google Earth Pro, as well as trying to learn ArcGIS Desktop through online courses and trying out ArcGIS Online. Here's my 2 cents and feel free to educate/correct me.

Unlike Google Earth (more a globe simulation than a flat map) the ESRI maps I've seen use outdated cartographic tropes (heavy language, I know).

Most ESRI maps still have a fixed "North is up" perspective ("tyranny of Mercator" I like to call it), an overhead view with no angular capability (and no close/distant visualization), and seem to be focused more on manipulating the data (back-end processing) rather than publishing it (front-end). I'm more focused on on-screen viewing rather than creating map printouts, though even for printouts these concerns are relevant.
I'm interested in digital history, and it's nice to be able to view geocoded American Civil War data in Google Earth from above Washington, at an angle facing the American South, with Earth's curve clearly displayed (or from any other perspective). Can ESRI do this? If so, how? this derives from an experiment I did based on the "Visualizing Emancipation"

[this screenshot and the icon symbols are from a not-for-publication Google Earth project I'm tinkering with, derives in part from the GIS webproject Visualizing Emancipation ]

I'm not sure how relevant ArcGIS's powerful data processing features are to the client/end-user. All they see is the published product and to me Google Earth makes things look fabulous and offers valuable changes in perspective. Where necessary, I can do quantitative database processing outside of Google Earth and then import the results as graphic objects. This doesn't work for everything, but in many cases it works very well.

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    -1. "Tyranny of Mercator" is hyperbole. Most web maps these days are Web Mercator, and most casual users are ignorant of the shape/area distortions. There are so many fronts to knock Esri on, but I don't think that availability of map projections would be one of them. Also, I don't like your use "ESRI Maps". Esri is a company whose software people use to make maps.
    – bcollins
    Feb 13, 2014 at 0:00

The option is no longer available with GEE being closed down and all existing users ported over to ArcGIS Online. http://www.esri.com/landing-pages/products/google-lp:

In coordination with Google, Esri has prepared a special offer for Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine customers and partners looking to transition to Esri software.

  • Not quite! That release is a little hyperbolic. There appears to be no statement that GEE is being closed down - its more that ESRI is taking on board more of the higher end functions. There would be literally thousands of people at a massive disadvantage if they had to shift to an Arc framework...Being slightly cynical - I'd say this is actually ESRI adapting to Google, rather than anything else. Feb 3, 2015 at 2:35
  • I could not find any announcement from Google either, I did look before posting, but I would not expect one. They may be just quietly leaving the professional GIS sector after finding it unprofitable and not core to building more advertising. Of course people won't be required to move, but I would not expect any more development or new users.
    – kimo
    Feb 4, 2015 at 5:18
  • ...ah, actually there does appear to be a tacit statement from Google know - a "free" version of Pro (although only supported for a year). The plot thickens! It'll be interesting to see how this all pans out, especially with the whole API issue as well. More space for open source, potentially? Feb 5, 2015 at 5:40

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