Category Archives: Geospatial Appliance

Appliantization at NUC 2008

 I have heard first time the term “Appliantization” from Justin Lindsey a CTO of Netezza at Netezza User Conference 2008, September, Orlando. I must admit I love this term, especially since I was involved with virtual appliance concept for geospatial. At Intergraph I was evaluating Netezza Performance Server with gaining fascinating results –  truly the peroformance runs in ranges you read in Netezza marketing materials – that is 10-100 times faster than equivalent general purpose database.  Gartner put Netezza into leaders sections in their magic quadrant for 2008, Netezza has quite good support for spatial types and spatial operations in their database and with UDXes you can turn the machine into domain focused Data Warehouse Appliance. 

More about Netezza Spatial  :

But let’s start from the beginning…

“One size fits all” approach doesn’t fit for high performance.

  Computing Appliances are equipment with a specialized laser focus on solving targetted IT problems. In contrast to general purpose hardware and software solutions, computing appliances leverage a high level of coherence or fidelity between wired hardware and software pieces. Appliances hide the technical complexity of a system and expose the simplicity of the system. According to the Gartner definition an appliance is “a prepackaged or preconfigured balanced set of hardware, software, service and support, sold as a unit with built-in redundancy for high availability.”

Recently in the data warehouse market, new appliances have emerged with support for geospatial data, processing and present revolution (and disruptive) technology. These new appliances provide a performance boost by tackling the way large amounts of geospatial data can be effectively processed. These performance boosts are reaching orders of magnitude in comparison to general purpose database counterparts like Oracle.

 Geospatially empowered Data Warehouse Appliances (DWA) with Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) architecture can scale out into the hundreds of terabytes, have capabilities to perform spatial queries in seconds instead of minutes or hours, and provide to the user new levels of experience with the affordable instant geospatial analytics.

 With a huge volume of geospatially related data, there are many technical reasons to tune and assemble hardware with software and encapsulate all the complexity together into a self-contained ‘simple’ appliance with standard endpoints for interfacing. These self-contained appliances are easier to maintain and manage keeping the total cost of ownership lower than their general purpose counterparts.
2008 will be known as the year of “Appliantization.” In the data warehousing domain, appliances such as Netezza NPS, Oracle Exadata or Microsoft’s code-named project “Madison” (confluence of DataAllegro and SQL Server) are enabling technologies for high performance spatial analysis.

 Simplicity is managed complexity and computing appliances just do this

Geospatial Appliance MapSnack at FOSS4G


Virtualization is an emerging technology on x86 platform simplifying deployment and configuration of complex information technologies. In free and open source software for geoinformatics area, however, this trend is not yet fully reflected or leveraged.  Contribution  introduces results and experiences with FOSS geospatial virtual appliance called ‘MapSnack’. MapSnack is a fully pre-installed and pre-configured geospatial virtual appliance that runs on any standard x86 machine in a self-contained, isolated  environment.

  A vision of MapSnack is to accompany raw geospatial data which comes in different formats with functionality to explore, query, share and manage content. That is merge data with functionality logic to simplify their absorption by consumer. MapSnack  eliminates the installation, configuration and maintenance effort  associated with deploying complex stacks of software for web mapping.

  There are basically two approaches how to achieve that. First is traditional and nowadays very popular  LiveCD  appliance, second is a virtual appliance


1. Geospatial LiveCD Appliance:

This approach takes Knoppix LiveCD concept  for fast deployment on user’s machine. LiveCD on one hand simplifies deployment and readiness to use geospatial appliance but on other hand remastering and maintenance of such system is difficult since intrinsic system is read only. LiveCD advantage is however in that it can run on any virtual or real machine which supports x86 ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) thus decision to let geospatial appliance run on real or virtualized (partitioned) hardware is left up to user. Another advantage of LiveCD system is embedded compressed file system which is automatically extracted during the boot up.


2. Geospatial Virtual Appliance –   Mapsnack

Recently much attention of IT have been drawn towards virtualization on x86 platform. Although there are many different levels of virtualization (hardware, operating system, application) virtualization in this contribution is treated as  ability to run multiple operating system on one CPU or one single computer. Important differentiation from the term emulation is that virtualization partition real hardware into multiple running context while emulation does it all in (higher) software layer. Virtualization is used in different areas such as server consolidation, running  legacy applications within legacy OS’es,  running untrusted applications in secure isolated sandboxes,  application mobility, clean/single service design and many others. MapSnack as geospatial virtual appliance is minimum sized Linux virtual machine with web user interfaces for deploying instant geospatial infrastructure and applications. Thus provides to the consumer advantage of quick deployment with  nearly zero-based installation and minimum skills to get it running.

MapSnack consist  of latest UMN MapServer and  P.Mapper with sample dataset. Underlying operating system is Debian Sarge 3.1r2 with latest updates. VMware Player has been chosen as virtualization platform to run MapSnack. Since it is not optimal to stick to one virtualization platform, future version will be virtualization platform independable, thus running a microinstall in the first run of appliance. Virtualized environment has an advantage that anybody can extend or modify it. User gets all necessary preinstalled and preconfigured software without even need to change his current production environment. This opens doors for Windows users who would like to combine comfort of Windows based GUI with performance and effectivity of single service virtual appliance based on Linux..

This approach of geospatial virtual appliance  answers also areas of MapSnack usability :

 1.  Portable map browsing – nowadays map browsers rely on internet connections. In case connection or server is broken and maps are urgently needed MapSnack can be quickly deployed as off-line /backup (or stand alone) map server.

2.  Encapsulating geospatial data with functionality – geospatial data providers  might want to add value to customers by providing not only processed data coming from various electromagnetic sensors  but also by providing software appliance for viewing and manipulating geospatial content.


3. Education of OGC standards (WxS) on stable and ‘always available’ source of geospatial content.


MapSnack can be downloaded from :









First drop of term “Geospatial Virtual Appliance”

I am very suprised that no one ever used term “Geospatial Virtual Appliance” on interent – at least Google returned only 2 references… So from now on I will start to monitor number of Google responses on this term…try it too.. btw. MapSnack (Geospatial Virtual Appliance) got ‘HONORABLE MENTION’ sign by VMWare in ‘Ultimate Virtual Appliance Challange’ competition. check here

MapSnack launched

I am excited to announce born of MapSnack. I and my colleague Jachym have created experimental Live Linux CD with GIS capability called ‘MapSnack’..your fast food for GIS. Interesting fact is that it can be run directly on HW or as virtual machine from VMware. The reason to do it was to give data consumers not only processed data but also basic functionality to view, analyse and publish them. Moreover installation time is either zero (in case of live runing) or just copy ISO file to your computer to run it from VMware. But may be it is crazy … you go for a shoping and buy an ice cream and you get fridge for free…:))
download iso [669 MB] – you can burn ISO on CD and run as Live Linux
download VMX config [1 KB] to run ISO file as virtual machine
If you don’t have VMware Workstation, go to VMware player to download free virtual machine player either for Windows or for Linux so you can enjoy running LiveCD on top of your host OS.
Details to run MapSnack in VMware Player: Download both files (ISO + VMX) into the same folder – named for example MapSnack. When you double click on VMX file you will get VMware player running and asking you to create new identifier…just confirm. Then MapSnack enters full screen mode…to get out back to your host OS pres Ctrl+alt.