Geospatial software needs a lot of computing power to operate at its best. If you throw complex 2D or 3D data into the mix, a dedicated graphics processing unit is also required. These factors mean that it can be difficult for those in the geospatial industry to work remotely because in most cases, their work is tethered to their high performance workstations.
The good news is that cloud computing has helped alleviate these challenges with its myriad of Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solutions. This is especially helpful for people and organisations who can’t invest in laptops to work remotely.
These DaaS solutions enable users to access a powerful virtual computer in the cloud from anywhere with an internet connection, and from any device that has a graphical user interface and web browser.
DaaS solutions aren’t necessarily new, but they have been improving over time and can now offer graphics-enabled virtual machines that can handle compute-intensive workloads and complex image data. Perfect for running your geospatial software!
I work at Winyama, one of the only Indigenous digital consultancies in Australia that specialises in mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). We run regional Indigenous mapping training for ranger groups, Native Title organisations and language groups through the Indigenous Mapping Workshop (IMW).
In order to run our training, we needed a way for attendees to access the required geospatial software in the remote areas we travel to.
Our training courses are designed to be simple and straightforward for participants. Hence, we didn’t want them worrying about their laptop capability or downloading any complicated software with licensing costs.
So how could they easily access the necessary geospatial software?
We could have spent tens of thousands of dollars purchasing a fleet of high end laptops with the required geospatial software installed - but after the workshops, we wouldn’t have any use for them. Instead, we created a fleet of virtual computers using Amazon Web Services (AWS).
(Image: virtual computer desktop)
The way our virtual computers work is that we create a virtual machine image that has all the necessary geospatial software and datasets installed and loaded. This image is then used by a fleet (streaming instances that run the image that you specify) of virtual computers that are specified to use an instance type capable of handling our geospatial workloads.
These virtual computers are accessible from anywhere that has an internet connection. The caveat is that the user's network needs to be fast enough to support rendering the streamed image in the browser. To access Winyama’s virtual computers, training attendees only need to log in with a username and password on our website, and then launch their desktop right there in the browser.
To achieve this, we use the AWS graphics-design extra large instance type, which is designed specifically for streaming graphics applications. Our fleet of virtual computers is scaled to cater for the number of participants attending our training to make sure we are being efficient with our compute resources.
(Image: shows the virtual machine fleet used for training workshops scaling up as it is used)
These notes from the AWS website are helpful if you want to learn more about the capabilities of Amazon AppStream 2.0.
If you have a project that requires a geospatial DaaS solution, the Winyama team would love to hear from you! Head to our contact us page to get in touch with us.
Winyama is one of the only Indigenous digital consultancies in Australia that specialises in mapping and GIS, which makes our combination of experience, knowledge and expertise unique. Through its primary partnership with NGIS Australia – one of Australia’s leading mapping and digital services providers – Winyama delivers premium digital solutions and management excellence.
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About the author: Tim Cable
Tim is an Information Technology (IT) Consultant at Winyama. His role is to develop Winyama's IT services capabilities.