The Federal Coordination Centre for Geographical Information, a division of swisstopo, operates the Federal Spatial Data Infrastructure (FSDI) to design and deliver GIS projects. Hanspeter Christ, deputy process manager of the FSDI, is responsible for the operation of the team’s infrastructure, which consists of more than 100 servers, the majority of which exist in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. “We manage many small-to-medium web GIS projects for our customers,” explains Christ, “which all require a specific server infrastructure.”
Why Amazon Web Services
swisstopo used AWS for the first time in 2008 to meet an urgent demand for a web portal from one of its key customers. “At the time, the FSDI was an on-premise site in a DMZ with a weak Internet uplink,” Christ says. “We lacked the computing capacity to meet our customer’s needs, and it was a long and cumbersome process to buy and install new hardware.” Working with a solution provider, Camptocamp SA, swisstopo used AWS to design and deliver the web application on time.
After this project, swisstopo was sold on using AWS. Christ says, “This positive experience, coupled with existing performance and capacity problems with our on-premise infrastructure, convinced us to move additional substantial parts of our FSDI to the AWS cloud.”
The agency currently uses 50 TB of Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes and 10 TB of Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store the geographical information for 40 GIS projects and geoservices hosted in the FSDI. The agency currently uses 100 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to support up to 50,000 unique visitors per day. This equates to approximately 20 TB of data transferred per month and 1,300 map tiles delivered per second. Swisstopo estimates it is now possible for the FSDI team to launch a new server within an hour, instead of the weeks or months it took before using AWS.
Now, swisstopo operates a significant part of the FSDI integration and production environments on Amazon EC2, while test environments run on-premise on the swisstopo intranet. Figure 1 below provides a diagram of the infrastructure architecture.
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