I was from GIS old school that spent most of my previous GIS career on desktop-based GIS environment. While I’m pretty comfortable with desktop-based GIS, I have to acknowledge the new emerging trend in web, cloud/device GIS deployment pattern. Web and cloud GIS offer both a fascinating and whole new world to me. In order to play catch up and bring myself up to speed with the latest technology trend, I do spend a lot of time reading and asking – especially by leveraging on many smart people around me.
The set back from traditional desktop-based GIS is lacked of ability to provide pervasive access for other users – both GIS and non-GIS people. The new cloud/device pattern provides new user experience by allowing users to access intelligent map on their desktop, internet browser, smartphone, tablet PCs through web services. User is able to query, navigate, edit, and even perform analysis on these intelligent web maps. In other words, you are equipped with ability to provide pervasive access to users and empower them to perform GIS analytic on their preferred devices, without losing your data ownership. (I will write more about this smart way of sharing in my future post)
In this post, I would like to share some of the excerpts from one of the briefing sessions given by my Technical Pre-sales Lead (Firdaus) about the importance of GIS server and Web Server needed to make this new pattern works.
GIS Server is needed to host GIS map data. This is quite straight forward for GIS old-school like me. There is another component that might not be very familiar to GIS specialist is Web Server. Web server or App server is web application front end that interact and display the GIS map data on your internet browser.
Let’s put this into another perspective, if GIS server is a car engine, then Web server is your swift gear, steering wheel, display dashboard and brake pedal that interact and display the engine condition in manner that’s user-friendly and easy to interact.
Even though the engine (maps) can function on its own but it is more comfortable and easier to control the engine through combination of steering control/brake control/gear control (apps), and user can see the condition of the engine much better in terminology understandable by users i.e. engine oil condition, fuel level, speed, gear position, etc (user friendly command & executive dashboard display) without the need to peek at the engine compartment.
Obviously getting these two components to work right requires different skill set and great deal of coordination. Of course it would be nice if you can find these skills within the same person. If you found one, do make them your best friend.
While GIS engineer might like to get their hand dirty in dealing with engine (map layer, map service), the rest of the users just want to be able to drive (use the map) comfortably. We definitely need more skilled web programming resources to work hand-in-hand with GIS engineer to design a more user-friendly web applications for all.