SimpleGeoJust under a year ago, SimpleGeo released SimpleGeo Storage, a high-performance and simple spatial database service, alongside the release of other related web services focused on mobile apps. Earlier this year it was announced that this service and others are being shut down, following an acquisition of SimpleGeo by Urban Airship and a subsequent change of focus. I never experimented with SimpleGeo’s service, so I can’t comment on its capabilities relative to its competition, but I do know (a) a lot of interesting design went into it, and (b) they saw a gap in the market before developing it.

The Many and Varied Alternatives to SimpleGeo Storage

What I find most interesting is the large number of other companies highlighting alternatives to the soon-to-be stranded users of SimpleGeo’s services. Starting with one survey of cloud database services yields a few options for spatial data: SQL Azure (based on SQL Server), Google AppEngine Datastore (spatial can be layered on top), a hosted solution for CouchDB (again with a spatial extension), and a number of MySQL-based offerings (which has some spatial support). MongoDB (not listed there) also does spatial, and at least one hosted option is available. SimpleGeo has a list of migration options that provide yet more, including Fusion Tables, GeoCommons (very interesting tools — while we’ve blogged about it a few times, today was my first look), CartoDB (based on PostGIS), and Parse. If you extend the search to others hoping to gain from the SimpleGeo shutdown, you’ll find yet more.

The Benefits of Cloud Database Services

Blogging about the release of Amazon’s DynamoDB, Werner Vogels observes a key benefit of database services over database software — you don’t have to install and manage them yourself. This simplicity isn’t the only reason people look to cloud solutions — e.g., scalability benefits can be achieved by running database software on top of cloud infrastructure — but it is valuable. At Safe, we’ve found the ease of sharing data on-the-fly with Google Fusion Tables (which also acts as a database service) helpful when demoing real-time data movement of sensor data (see Don’s video starting at 1:30).

This is clearly a time of experimentation and diversity in spatial cloud database services! Are you storing spatial data in the cloud? If so, how, and what has your experience been?

About Data Cloud Computing Google Fusion Tables Spatial Databases

Paul Nalos


4 Responses to “Alternatives to SimpleGeo: Remaining Options for Spatial Database Services”

  1. michael says:

    Hello Paul

    Spatial Database Services in the Cloud is an interesting topic …

    Here is my personal opinion:
    For now I can only imagine to have spatial data in the cloud, which are a mirror of other data, which are under the control of myself or a well known partner. (e.g. INSPIRE)

    If a cloud service utilizes infrastructure, of which I don’t know where it is and can be shutdown like you mention is happening for SimpleGeo Storage, this puts rather massive restrictions on possible usage scenarios …

    To find an analogy:
    To stay in a hotel for a limited time in a place where I don’t live normally is a good idea.

    To give the key to my house to a stranger, who claimes to take care …
    leave it to him and then hope to be allowed in again when I return doesn’t seem very realistic in this world …


  2. Paul Nalos says:

    Hi Michael,

    Good thoughts. It’s pretty clear that trust and sustainability are key factors when deciding to use any cloud solution… and that there are a number of different ways to mitigate risks. Your example of keeping the primary copy under your control doesn’t fit all scenarios (e.g. web scale, write intensive workloads), but certainly makes sense for others.

    Even with mirrored data, you could imagine the frustration of writing an application against a cloud service only to have that service disappear. The result is a lot of wasted effort and opportunity cost.

    I wonder if, over time, standardized web/cloud services will emerge making it possible to migrate applications and data from one provider to another if one fails or closes shop. This wouldn’t fully answer the data issues, but would go along way to avoiding orphaned applications (warning: link contains mild profanity – lost effort = angry users). For now, though, most of these spatial database services have incompatible interfaces.



  3. recently launched as an alternative to SimpleGeo for geocoding and spatial database functionality.

  4. Paul Nalos says:

    Hi Runako,

    Thanks for the link. It’s good to see another option.



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