Neo vs Paleo Geography

Jurassic Dinosaur skeleton
Fig 1 – Paleo, Neo – what about Jurassic Geography?

I gather that there is some twittering about neo versus paleo geography. See Peter Batty’s blog entry or James Fee’s blog. I myself don’t Twitter, but in general I’m happy for Peter’s paleo accomodation of the non twitterers, repeating the conversation in a blog entry. Peter has also updated comments with a new post questioning, “Are we now in a post neogeography era?” The dreaded paradigm shifts are coming fast and furiously.

I am not really able to comment on neo vs paleo as I myself fall even further back into “Jurassic Geography.” Looking at connotations we have this accounting:

····neo - 1990 – present, new, recent, different, Obama, Keynesian, Apple, Google Earth, Cloud, Java C# RubyRails Twitter

····paleo - as in paleolithic 2.8m – 10k old, prehistoric, ancient, early, primitive, Nixon, Supply Side, Microsoft, Windows Desktop, ESRI Arc???, C C++ Javascript telephone

Obviously the “paleo” label is not carried with quite the honor of “neo.” It’s reminiscent of the Galen / Myers-Brigg personality typology characterized as Lion, Otter, Beaver, and Golden Retriever. What do you want to be? Obviously not the beaver, but there has to be a significant part of the world in that category, like it or not. After all what would lions eat for dinner without a few of us beavers? Likewise there is a significant branch of paleo in the GIS kingdom.

However, in the pre-paleolithic era there are still a few of us left, falling into the “long tail” of the Jurassic. So carrying on down the connotation stream here is the Jurassic geography equivalent:

····jurassic – 206m-144m dinosaurs, fossils, pre paleolithic, Hoover, laissez faire, IBM Big Iron, Assembly Cobol, open source

Wait “Open Source” – Jurassic Geography? How did that get in there? The notoriously frugal days of Hoover never made it into the paleolithic era’s “Supply Side” economy. It’s Keynesian economics all over the neo world, so Jurassic geography is the frugal end of the spectrum and how can you get more frugal than free! Obviously Open Source is as Jurassic as they come in Geography circles.

As I’ve recently been in a gig hunting mode, I’ve been having quite a few in depth conversations about GIS stacks. As a small businessman outside the corporate halls of paleo geography, I’ve had few occasions to get an in depth education on the corporate pricing world. So I spent the past couple of days looking into it.

Let’s start at the bottom of the stack. Here is some retail pricing on a few popular GIS databases:

  • Oracle Standard Spatial $17,500 + $3850 annual
  • Oracle Enterprise Locator $47,500 + $10,450 annual
  • SQL Server 2008 Web edition ~ $3500
  • PostgreSQL/PostGIS $0.00

If you’re a Jurassic geographer which do you choose? Probably not Oracle Enterprise Locator. If your Paleo you look at that and think, “Man, I am the negotiator! We don’t pay any of that retail stuff for the masses.” Neo? – well how would I know how a neo thinks?

Next take a look at the middle tier:

  • ESRI ArcGIS Server standard workgroup license
    ····Minimum $5000 2cores + $1250 2core annual
    ····Additional cores $2500/core + $625/core annual
  • ESRI ArcGIS hosted application server license
    ····Minimum $40,000 4 cores + $10,000 4 core annual
    ····Additional cores $10,000/core + $2500/core annual
  • OWS GeoServer or MapServer minimum $0 + annual $0
    But, this is GIS isn’t it? We want some real analytic tools not just a few hundred spatial functions in JTS Topology suite. OK, better throw in a few QGIS or GRASS installs and add a few $0s to the desktop production. Oh, and cores, we need some, “make that a 16core 64 bit please” – plus $0.

I think you catch the Jurassic drift here. How about client side.

  • ESRI Silverlight free, well sort of , if you’re a developer, NGO, educational, or non-profit otherwise take a look at that ArcGIS license back a few lines.
  • Google API it’s Neo isn’t it? $10k per annum for a commercial use, maybe its Paleo after all.
  • Virtual / Bing Maps api $8k per annum transaction based and in typical license obfuscation fashion impossible to predict what the final cost will be. Paleo, “Just send me the invoice.”
  • OpenLayers is a javascript api client layer too, just solidly Jurassic at $0
  • Silverlight well it can be Jurassic, try DeepEarth over at codeplex or MapControl from Microsoft with the Bing imageservice turned off, OSM on.

It’s been an interesting education. Here is the ideal Jurassic GIS stack:
Amazon EC2 Windows instance + PostGIS database + GeoServer OWS + IIS Silverlight MapControl client
The cost: starts at $100/mo(1 processor 1.7Gb 32bit) up to $800/mo(4 processor 15Gb 64bit)

So what does a Jurassic geographer get in this stack?

Hardware:
Amazon Cloud based virtual server, S3 Backup, AMI image replication, Elastic IP, AWS console, choice of OS, cores, memory, and drive space. Ability to scale in a big way with Elastic load balancing, auto scaling, and CloudWatch monitoring. Performance options like CloudFront edge service or something experimental like Elastic MapReduce Hadoop clusters.

Database:
PostgreSQL/PostGIS – Standards compliant SQL server with GIST spatial indexing on OGC “Simple Features for SQL” specification compliant geometry with extended support for 3DZ, 3DM and 4D coordinates. A full set of roughly 175 geometry, management, and spatial functions. It supports almost all projections. All this and performance? maybe a little vague but not shabby:

“PostGIS users have compared performance with proprietary databases on massive spatial data sets and PostGIS comes out on top.”

Middle Tier:
Geoserver – standards compliant OWS service for WMS, WFS, WCS.
Data sources: Shapefile, Shapefile Directory, PostGIS, external WFS, ArcSDE, GML, MySQL, Oracle, Oracle NG, SQL Server, VPF
Export formats: WFS GML, KML, SVG, PDF, GeoRSS, Png, Jpeg, Geotiff, OGR Output – MapInfo Tab and MID/MIF, Shp, CSV, GeoJSON …
OGC standard SLD styling, built in gwc tile caching – seeded or as needed, managed connection pools, RESTful configuration api, and ACEGI integrated security.

WCS adds :

  1. ArcGrid – Arc Grid Coverage Format
  2. ImageMosaic – Image mosaicking plugin
  3. WorldImage – A raster file accompanied by a spatial data file
  4. Gtopo30 – Gtopo30 Coverage Format
  5. GeoTIFF – Tagged Image File Format with Geographic information
“GeoServer is the reference implementation of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Feature Service (WFS) and Web Coverage Service (WCS) standards, as well as a high performance certified compliant Web Map Service (WMS). “

Browser client viewer:
Take your pick here’s a few:

Summary:
Well in these economic times Jurassic may in fact meet Neo. The GIS world isn’t flat and Jurassic going right eventually meets Neo going left, sorry Paleos. Will Obama economics turn out to be Hooverian in the end? Who knows, but here’s a proposition for the Paleos:

Let me do a GIS distribution audit. If I can make a Jurassic GIS Stack do what the Paleo stack is currently providing, you get to keep those annual Paleo fees from here to recovery. How about it?

rkgeorge @cadmaps.com

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