March 07, 2005
Speed, Scalability and Spatial Extension are Key to Geospatial One-Stop 2
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! In February of this year, ESRI announced that it was selected by the Department of the Interior to develop the full implementation of the Geospatial One-Stop Portal (GOS 2). In speaking with Hank Garie, Executive Director of GOS, as well as Marten Hogeweg of ESRI, I learned what is behind GOS 2, and making this a dramatic new version of the GOS that promises to provide new ways to share geospatial information.

This coming week from Sunday through Wednesday (March 6-9) I will be in Denver at the GITA conference and hope to see many of you there. I'll be writing for the Show Daily so you might want to pick up that paper each day as you go to the conference and check out what's happening on site. GISWeekly will also offer full exclusive coverage of the conference in next week's issue.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Speed, Scalability and Spatial Extension are Key to Geospatial One-Stop 2

By Susan Smith

In February of this year, ESRI announced that it was selected by the Department of the Interior to develop the full implementation of the Geospatial One-Stop Portal (GOS 2). In speaking with Hank Garie, Executive Director of GOS, as well as Marten Hogeweg of ESRI, I learned what is behind GOS 2, and making this a dramatic new version of the GOS that promises to provide new ways to share geospatial information.

“The idea of version 2 of the portal is to build upon what we learned from version 1, the prototype," said Garie, "We didn't want to start from scratch, but it was a totally separate procurement."

Google was selected as it was part of the strategy that was proposed by ESRI as the Department went through the procurement process. Users wanted faster searches, and also administrative tools with respect to how channels were organized and managed, and the ability to download data directly from the portal.

The first year of implementing the operational portal provided a number of lessons, which then provided the basis for not only the technical requirements but also feasibility requirements for the next release, according to Garie. "One of the major differences between the two versions is this time we are employing out of the box portal software, and coupling that with the geospatial expertise of ESRI. So for instance, the search engine for the second version of the portal will be powered by Google through partnership, and the out of the box portal software through a partnership with IBM for WebSphere, so this portal will be much more robust in terms of speed of searching, with capabilities
beyond just looking for geospatial data sets."

According to Marten Hogeweg, there's quite a bit of difference between the prototype and the site they are currently working on. During the past 19 months that ESRI has hosted the site, there have been some usability issues that are going to be addressed in version 2. "Major changes made include: 1) We have differentiated between different types of users - not every user is a GIS professional therefore you may need to have specific user interface; i.e., ways for people to search and find the things they're looking for, 2) allowing people to personalize their use of the site - before it was a one for all, where every user had the same functions and same things they can do on the site. In the
new GOS we are using current technology in terms of portal development, technology that you might see on MSN or Ebay or Amazon. With this technology you can create a personal GOS: MyGOS. This has been accomplished to a large extent by using the IBM WebSphere portal framework 3) Performance - this site started off with about 1,000 or so documents a year and a half ago and right now it's at 85, 000 to 90,000 documents. The intent is to grow it to 300,000 or more documents. We are not only serving up a huge number of documents, but also you expect with more documents you'll have more users and more use of the site, so different aspects of scalability are being addressed. That led us to choose
the Google search appliance, the main search engine for the metadata in the GOS site. The use of this search engine is a major difference between this version and the first version. We use Google's expertise and scalability, their solution for searching large numbers of documents."

The Google search engine also provides very rapid response times, thus short waiting times for users, so they can do searches and quickly refine searches and focus on something they need based on the search results that they get. Which is similar to the search experience users get when going directly to -- it's so fast you can refine your search directly, redo your search and zoom in on the things you really need.

What is being used for GOS 2 is basically the same technology as is used on It is not the same technology as is used for Google Maps, which I had talked about in a previous
article. "We also look at how many times people use the advanced search of Google and we found that a lot of people use it on a daily basis. Google has a very basic user interface and you can hardly get simpler, just having one text box with people entering a word, and you have a button that says search or go," explained Hogeweg. "We have tried to follow that simplicity of user interface and at the same time make the searching itself more advanced."

Spatial Extension from ESRI

What is ESRI's piece in this? "We came up with what we call a 'spatial extender' to Google. Google searches, by themselves, are not spatial searches - if you try to find something about Denver, and key in Denver, every web page that has the word Denver in it will turn up as a search result," Hogeweg explained. As part of the ESRI solution, a gazetteer is used to determine which of the key words people enter in as a search phrase are actually place names. "For example, when you say flood data for Denver area, you type in Denver flood, you don't use a map to zoom as is currently the case on the existing site. You type in the words and you find entries that have both the words Denver and flood
in them somewhere in the metadata document. But at the same time, you get a suggestion asking, did you mean to look for "flood in the spatial extent of Denver?" There are five Denvers in the U.S. While in development, ESRI also found that Flood is a place in Virginia. "With you will never find this, because their gazetteer doesn't have that full rich set of place names as the one we use," Hogeweg remarked. With these spatial hints, people can type place names instead of zooming in on a map and at the same time make use of the Google searching capability.

Google provides not just the equipment and hardware for the Google Search Appliance but also some services in support of the development of this capability. "What we also did is make all this searching available through an OGC Catalog Service in addition to searching through the GOS applications. You can also create your own search interface and place that search interface into your own website. There are multiple ways to redeploy the entire GOS solution or make the GOS catalog accessible to other applications and developers for those applications."

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