Google will let government agencies and big organisations store and process massive geographic data in the cloud on Google’s servers, saving them from spending money on their own hardware.So far, Google’s online services for business have mostly replaced standard business software like email and document collaboration.
But the new service, Google Earth Builder, shows how Google could move up into so-called “vertical” markets, which are more expensive and complicated. In this case, Google is targeting the geographic information systems (GIS) market, where installations can cost millions of dollars. Google says Earth Builder will be priced “competitively” with software from GIS vendors like Esri, which means each sale could net big bucks for the company.
Earth Builder also targets Microsoft, which lets companies tap into data from Bing Maps and use the Windows Azure platform for hosting and processing data.
The main benefit of Earth Builder is hardware savings: because geographic data is so huge and complicated to process, using Google’s cloud will replace on-premise servers. Earth Builder will also give companies access to the massive amount of data Google has already collected for Maps and Earth — including 3D images of landscapes — and let them combine that information with their own data.
Google Earth Builder does not have any provision for collecting geographic data, so organisations will still have to have systems in place to do that.
Google expects its customers to include government agencies — already a big target market for Google Apps — and energy companies. Early customers include Australia’s Ergon Energy and the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
Earth Builder will launch in the third quarter and detailed pricing information will be announced later this year.