CLOUD-NATIVE GIS For NG9-1-1
Author: Robert Murphy, ENP, RPL
Not All Cloud Solutions Are Equal…
Public safety agencies are deploying the use of cloud technology to support their daily operations. In March 2020, cloud technology took a leap forward in many public safety agencies as they sought to maintain continuity of service during the infancy stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of those agencies turned to their GIS team to make data-driven decisions – coronavirus cases, testing, contact tracing and predictive analytics to forecast the next potential hot spot. As the nation’s workforce began working remotely, some agencies found it difficult to maintain normalcy as their tools were powered by on-premise or cloud-washed solutions.
As the former 9-1-1 Communications Chief for a public safety answering point in a disaster-prone area, I found myself wondering how the cloud could have increased efficiency during crisis moments. Our continuity of operations plans involved staff relocation which required more hardware, applications, and unsecure virtual private network connections to our on-premise equipment. Surely there was a better way. Fast forward a few years to 2020 where the public safety community, specifically next generation 9-1-1 data stewards, begin to deploy cloud technology. Are these agencies investing in the right technology and are they getting the biggest return on investment?
Are You a Victim of Cloudwashing?
As we learn more on the advantages of NG9-1-1, many PSAPs are leveraging cloud-based solutions to create, validate and maintain their GIS data. Like others, you may have considered the advantages of utilizing a cloud technology in your PSAP. These kinds of platforms eliminate the expense of purchasing and maintaining servers, applications, third-party licensing and paying for quarterly or annual version upgrades, but not all cloud-based applications are built the same.
Cloudwashing is a term we don’t hear too often. It is a misleading marketing attempt by some software companies to rebrand their products by using the terms “cloud” or “as-a-service” as a selling point. To avoid becoming a victim of cloud-washing, ask yourself and more importantly your potential vendor these questions:
- Do I need to buy one tool, several tools or ‘get the bundle’?
- Do I need to download an application on my machine to use all or part of your tools?
- Do I need to install or pay for maintenance on a server – mine or yours?
- Do I need third-party or additional licenses to use all tools in your offering?
- Perhaps the most important question, what does it cost to receive real-time and recurring updates?
What Does Cloud-Native Look Like for NG9-1-1 GIS?
Like GIS data, GIS applications come in many shapes and sizes. A cloud-native solution indicates that the software you receive is built in the cloud – for use in the cloud. In a cloud-native environment, the vendor manages all aspects of the software for the client, aside from their GIS data. All aspects of the solution are built, managed, and hosted in a cloud environment, ensuring a safer, faster, and more reliable user experience.
Within a cloud-native environment the client’s data is secure with an extremely high degree of reliability, availability and the infrastructure that supports the data is often elastic. If additional resources are required support an expanding data set, the solution scales to meet the demands, eliminating the need to purchase hardware, or increase memory. In a cloud-native environment, you’ll never be told to download an application on your local device or to add an extension to your GIS applications –the GIS tools are built into the cloud-native solution.
Advantages for NG9-1-1 GIS
Cloud-native solutions eliminate the need for internal development, making deployment, security, and access easier. These solutions cut costs, and eliminate hidden fees related to support, such as storage, maintenance, and hardware catastrophes. GIS is a critical component to next generation 9-1-1, and cloud-native solutions allow GIS data to be accessible at your fingertips during natural disasters and provides you the ability to work and access your data from anywhere in the world. These advantages result in increased disaster recovery, better business continuity and ensure faster updates – such as changes to GIS standards. Cloud-native solutions for NG9-1-1 GIS provides GIS maintenance licenses and saves the client from having to purchase them.
Cloud-native solutions are truly built in the cloud, for the cloud
Public safety has traditionally operated in an on-premise environment, we want to make sure we have everything we need when “the big one” occurs. Advancements in technology can make PSAP operations significantly more efficient. Cloud computing is used in most every successful business in the world, it’s a good idea to leverage cloud solutions to increase efficiency in our operations but we must proceed with caution. Make sure you’re asking the right questions to ensure you weren’t cloud-washed. If your solution requires you to bring anything to the table, you’re likely not being provided a cloud-native solution.