Thursday, October 28, 2010
Clouds are free, rainbows are extra
As long as you dont mind putting up with a few ad boxes on your web site, or occasional down time, you can have a fully featured web presence without paying for the whole kit and kaboodle. The idea is that there are sources of digital data being streamed onto the web and you dont have to pay to access them. The current catch phrase for this digital ocean of data is the cloud.
You may have heard that an unnamed megalosaurus of a software company (if I just said Microsoft what fun would that be) is offering you a world of wondrous things in "The Cloud". And yes, it is probably all true, only dont confuse "The Cloud" with the cloud. "The Cloud" will cost you greenbacks, the cloud will cost nothing, except an occasional mind blank of ads on the periphery.
On top of this cloud ocean (rather than mixing metaphors again, I decided to combine them), are floating some pretty sophisticated drilling rigs. These middleware tools pull up filtered data from the ether and present it in your web site - and you dont have to pay one red cent. In the biz, we call that opensource. While these are still in their infancy, you can still have fun without paying up front. One promising data rig is GeoCommons. I built a
for one project from my own shapefile which I uploaded and from another GC layer from someone else, all overlayed on a free base layer from OpenStreetMap.
I know, not the speed you expect from the web these days, and just to warn you, some stuff just doesnt work. But as I said, we are talking about the birth of a new way of doing things, so check back in a little while. A very, little while.