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Connecting Clouds: A Dream Team for Spatial Apps

In which con terra combines three clouds - FME Cloud, ArcGIS Online, and map.apps - to put users on Cloud Nine.

Puzzling Elements.Have you ever gone cloudbusting? For the uninitiated, that’s when you lie on your back in the grass (preferably in a big field), stare up at the clouds, and break them apart with your mind. It doesn’t actually work, mind you, but spending time lying in the grass is a great thing to do.

Safe Platinum Partners con terra of Germany have taken the opposite approach – instead of breaking clouds apart, they’re putting clouds together to create some pretty innovative new solutions by using REST services to combine three cloud platforms: their own map.apps, FME Cloud, and ArcGIS Online.

Apps: Users Want Easy

Focused apps for web and mobile platforms are great for fulfilling specific needs. If they’re done well, the user experience is intuitive with little learning curve. As it seems with most elegantly simple designs, the complicated bits aren’t visible – they’re happening behind the scenes. And with spatially enabled apps, there are a lot of GIS-type processes that could be re-used if they were pre-packaged and readily available.

Cloud One: map.apps

This was part of the rationale behind con terra’s creation of map.apps. This suite of packaged GIS functions resides in an Amazon cloud, where app administrators can rapidly create and deploy apps using a “composing, not programming” approach.

The map.apps framework is based on the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, which leads us to the next cloud – ArcGIS Online.

A simple GUI lets administrators construct apps without coding (click to enlarge).

Cloud Two: ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online provides several important components – ready content and geoprocessing services, and (very useful!) user authentication. By utilizing the Esri named user login credentials throughout (using Oauth), usage limits or other security-dependent parameters can be incorporated in FME workspaces with a single sign-on.

Using the ArcGIS Online credentials for a single sign-on user experience (click to enlarge).

As well, the associated ArcGIS Marketplace provides a platform to promote and deliver apps, as we will see below with a sample app.

Cloud Three: FME Cloud

When it came time to extend the functionality of apps, con terra decided to simply plug in another cloud – FME Cloud. Ready and easily configurable extensions include file upload and download, database import and export, and web connection to a variety of formats, systems, services, and databases.

As mentioned, single sign-on security policies can be linked from the ArcGIS Online credentials, and so the heavy lifting that’s going on behind the scenes is non-intrusive from the user’s perspective. Passing of information to FME workspaces is largely handled via FME published parameters, as you can see in this sample database export workspace, which runs on demand in FME Cloud.

Sample App: OSM Feature Fetcher

If you’re interested in seeing how this all comes together for the end user, check out this sample app in the ArcGIS Marketplace. The OSM Feature Fetcher uses all three clouds to choose and download Points of Interest from OpenStreetMap, and you can try it out for free.

Click to enlarge.

Cloud Nine

So why am I telling you about this today?

Well, we constantly hear about (and of course use) “The Cloud”, and perhaps tend to think about it as a single nebulous entity out there in the ether. But con terra is simply considering clouds (multiple) as just another set of sources, and most convenient and effective ones at that.

What they’ve done is assemble a dream team – picking and choosing what they needed, with major components already out there – and assembled the pieces into a really rather impressive whole. Without having to even look at adding IT infrastructure and all that entails.

“The combination of ArcGIS Online, FME Cloud and map.apps allows you to simply compose beautifully designed and focused Apps, including base map content, user rights management, geospatial processing functionality and format flexibility,” says Mark Döring, Project Manager at con terra GmbH. “This solution pattern allows you to easily spatially enable, mash up and visualize data from nearly every data storage or information service with a minimum of integration efforts.”

So as FME Cloud celebrates its first anniversary, thanks to con terra for demonstrating how FME Cloud can help put your customers on Cloud Nine!

Want more information?

Learn about FME Cloud on our website.

Read Safe co-founder Don Murray’s thoughts on FME Cloud’s first year and future roadmap on our blog.

Watch a recorded webinar: Introduction to FME Cloud + Live Q&A with its two main architects.

Check out the map.apps developer network.


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