Private, Public, Hybrid: Picking the Right Cloud
Determining the best cloud hosting approach for your organization can be complicated. Private, public, hybrid—which one is right for you? At Woolpert, we’ve had to make that very same decision. Here’s an inside look at how we selected a cloud along with some practical advice for picking yours.
The Story of SmartView Connect
At Woolpert, we employed a hybrid cloud solution for one project/product in particular: SmartView Connect. What is SmartView Connect, and how does it relate to the cloud?
A large part of Woolpert’s business is collecting, processing and delivering high-quality raster imagery to clients. A critical component of this process is a quality control (QC) step in which clients view their images and either accept them or flag issues requiring additional attention. Clients use SmartView Connect to securely access this pre-delivery imagery and perform online QC.
Private Cloud: Line-of-business Application
From its inception in 2008 until early 2020, SmartView Connect ran entirely on Woolpert’s private cloud using a vmWARE vSphere with an associated storage cluster. This made sense because the application can run close (in network terms) to the massive amounts of potentially deliverable imagery that must be shared with clients.
This very common approach was taken by many businesses over the past decade. Basically, a company surfaces one or more controlled data centers to the internal development and systems team using something like vSphere. This is so common, in fact, that solutions exist specifically to migrate vSphere-hosted applications wholesale to a public cloud.
Your organization may use a very similar setup for geospatial applications.
Public Cloud: Extracting STREAM:RASTER from SmartView Connect
Over the course of 2019, Woolpert’s geospatial team heard from clients that not only was SmartView Connect a great tool for data QC, but they also liked the idea of Woolpert using it to provide final data as a streaming service in addition to traditional delivery methods (hard drives, FTP, etc.). Since we already had their data, the conversation went, couldn’t we just flip a switch and stream that data for a monthly fee?
In mid-2019, the Woolpert Cloud Solutions team decided to extract the SmartView Connect backend into a separate product and reimagine it as a cloud-native service. Thus, STREAM:RASTER was born!
STREAM:RASTER provides streaming hosting of raster datasets, whether sourced from Woolpert or elsewhere. It’s a straight-up software-as-a-service (SaaS) proposition using a consumption-based pricing model.
We decided to put STREAM:RASTER on an entirely public cloud platform because we needed the horizontal and elastic scale to process and serve massive quantities of data without affecting business-critical workflows inside the Woolpert firewall. This approach helped us avoid pushing our production work onto a new platform without proof of its effectiveness.
Here’s roughly what STREAM:RASTER looks like deployed on GCP: