Open Source Cloud Map Introduction

In recent years GIS and web technologies have advanced to allow the sharing of geospatial data on the web. Land management agencies sometimes have a need to simply post GIS datasets on the web and don't always require advanced GIS modeling capabilities on the server. There are many products available to serve geospatial datasets on the web, but many of these have a complicated setup, costly license fees, and provide more capabilities than are needed in some use cases. There is also a need to simplify web server setup. The map we have built is an example of an inexpensive and simple solution for agencies to post and share GIS data on the web using open source map servers and open source GIS clients deployed on a virtual cloud server.

The USDA Forest Service and other public land management agencies often compile and generate geospatial data as a result of their research and activities. Making this data available to the public is often hindered by a lack of web and map servers inside the agency. When the servers are available, they often require GIS expertise to setup and maintain. Some of the more popular map servers, while providing advanced geoprocessing capabilities, have high annual license fees. The need to post geospatial data continues to grow as Federal land management agencies grapple with wide ranging social and ecological issues with stakeholders and other interested external entities.

One potential solution to streamline the sharing of geospatial data under the current information policy is through the use of cloud computing and open source map servers. The federal government is encouraging the use of cloud computing by its agencies by launching the General Services Administration's cloud storefront Apps.gov. This online storefront enhances how the government leverages technology by enabling federal agencies to acquire and purchase cloud computing services in an efficient, effective manner.

We have built a cloud server based map server solution for the USDA Forest Service Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center (WWETAC). One of our goals is to build a system for users to view existing geospatial data layers of wildland threats to examine spatial intersections of multiple threats with high value resources such as critical wildlife habitat, wildland urban interfaces, and other human and ecological values. Additionally, the system allows users to connect to other internet map services available on the web.