At the Where 2.0 conference on Wednesday, Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of location and local services, plans to introduce Google Earth Builder, a cloud-based mapping platform.
Google Earth Builder provides hosted storage and computational power for geospatial data, tools to create map layers, and resources to securely publish map layers for private or public use through Google Earth and/or Google Maps.
"We're bringing the geo infrastructure that we've developed for Google Maps and Google Earth to the enterprise space," explained Google enterprise geo product manager Dylan Lorimer in an interview.
Geospatial data, Lorimer said, is particularly difficult to manage because the files are often quite large, taking up anywhere from several terabytes to several hundred terabytes in many cases. And it often requires expensive GIS software to process.
"It's not very easy to build maps today," said Lorimer. "But these are problems that Google has solved."
By moving geo data to the cloud, Lorimer says organizations can spend less time maintaining on-premises servers and storage, can take advantage of Google's processing power for massive image processing jobs, and can stop worrying about data backup.
In addition to the benefits of cloud computing, Google will be offering organizations analytics data, so they can tell how their maps are being used. And Lorimer suggested there's something to be said for being able to present data using tools that users probably already understand.
Lorimer pointed that Australian energy company Ergon Energy has been testing Google Earth Builder, and noted that many of the company's 4,600 employees are not trained to use desktop GIS applications but know how to use Google Maps.
Google will not be mining user data from Google Earth Builder, as it does with its free consumer services. "This is your organization's private data catalog," said Lorimer. "Google doesn't benefit from it at all. This is purely the customer's data in the cloud."
However, Google Earth Builder will not be free. Google isn't yet ready to disclose the pricing structure, but Lorimer insists the cost will be competitive with other options in the market. As a rough estimate, he said prices would vary, depending on the capabilities required, from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars.
Google Earth Builder is scheduled to be released in the third quarter of 2011. And FISMA certification is likely to be pursued in late 2011 or 2012, Lorimer said.