IBM’s PAIRS Geoscope helps developers wrangle geospatial data

IBM today announced PAIRS Geoscope, a new experimental cloud-based service that makes it easier for developers to work with large amounts of geospatial data from across a wide variety of sources. The service handles ingesting, integrating and managing the data and allows developers to focus on their queries.

Indeed, it’s the part of the service that handles the data ingesting and indexing that sets PAIRS Geoscope apart from other big data analytics services. It can take in anything from geotagged IoT data from sensors to weather data, census data, aerial imagery and even tweets or news data from the Google-backed GDELT Project.

If you are interested in how IBM does this, you’re in luck, because the team recently published a paper that goes into more detail about how this integration engine works. From the developer’s perspective, though, the most important feature here is that PAIRS converts all the data into common formats and units and automatically aligns all the spatial data.

IBM says that it built this service on a “highly-scalable, cloud-based repository especially crafted for the complexities of geospatial-temporal information.” And while there is a REST API that developers can use to access the service, there also is a web-based interface that makes it easy to select different layers, manipulate them and combine them to generate new queries.

If you would like to give PAIRS Geoscope a try yourself, just head over to the project’s homepage and give it a shot. Currently, it looks like using any of the public data sets in the service’s repository is free and the service will walk you through the process, making this one of the easiest tools to play with this kind of data.

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Hyperscale data centers reached over 390 worldwide in 2017

Hyperscale operators are defined as enormous companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google that need to provide computing on a massive scale. You would think that there would be a limited number of this type of highly specialized data center, but recent research from Synergy Research found that 2017 was actually a breakout year for new hyperscale data centers across the world — with no sign of slowing down in 2018.

Synergy reported that the year closed with over 390 web-scale data centers worldwide with Google being particularly active. Chinese companies Tencent and Baidu also built hyperscale data centers this year. Still, the vast majority are in the US with 44 percent of the total. China is second way back with 8 percent, followed by Japan and the UK with 6 percent each and Australia and Germany with 5 percent each.

Synergy reports that on average, the 24 hyperscale firms have 16 data centers each. The companies with the largest number won’t come as a surprise to anyone with Amazon/AWS, Microsoft, IBM and Google each having at least 45 worldwide.

The definition of hyperscale varies, but IDC says it requires at least 5000 servers and 10,000 square feet of available space, but is often much larger. Synergy defines it having “several hundreds of thousands of servers — or sometimes millions.”

These operators often build their own equipment to deal with the specific needs of their immense computing requirements. By designing their own hardware and software, these companies can control every aspect of the computing experience to squeeze out the maximum amount of efficiency, which is crucial when you are dealing with the massive scale of these organizations.

To do this, they need to understand and be able to manipulate every configurable element, something that is typically not possible when buying equipment off the shelf. Because of these unique demands, it limits the number of companies who build these kinds of data centers to the largest technology companies in the world.

As these companies in this exclusive club continue to grow, they will continue to require additional hyperscale presence throughout the world and Synergy reports 69 additional facilities were in various stages of planning or construction, but not completed, as the year closed. At the current pace, Synergy predicts there will be over 500 worldwide by the end of 2019.

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Don’t expect AWS to launch a blockchain service anytime soon

Bitcoin may be reaching for new heights, but don’t expect AWS to launch a service that’s based on the underlying blockchain technology anytime soon. During a press conference at AWS’ annual re:Invent conference in Last Vegas, AWS CEO Andy Jassy took a question on his team’s plans for a blockchain service.

Jassy seemed anything but enthused about the prospect. In his view, there aren’t a lot of use cases of the blockchain “beyond the distributed ledger.” He also stressed that AWS doesn’t “build technology because we think it is cool.”

In his view, there are plenty of other ways to solve the problems that blockchain technology aims to solve, too, and that many of the distributed ledgers available right now remain very limited in their capabilities.

Still, he allowed for some room to work on a blockchain product in the future: “We are very intrigued by what customers are ultimately going to do there,” Jassy said.

AWS competitors like Microsoft and IBM seem to feel more bullish about blockchain services and distributed ledgers. Over the course of the last few months, we’ve seen a number of them launch both blockchain services and pilot projects with a number of their customers. For the time being, though, it doesn’t look like Amazon plans to join this group.