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The Fundamental Storage Challenges of High Resolution Aerial Imagery

This is the fourth installment in our series, The Unstructured Data Explosion, which explores how new technologies are creating file growth challenges within today’s leading businesses and industries.

Aerial photography drones have become a critical tool for many businesses, from agriculture to real estate. We were even caught up in drone fever for a little while, even though we’re in the Enterprise File Services business. For large-scale construction, engineering and land surveying firms, though, the use of high-resolution aerial photography has become absolutely essential. Whether the area in question is a construction site, a waterway or an office complex, these images allow companies to check construction progress, generate topographic surveys, map urban and industrial areas, plan and pitch major projects and more.

Using data from the GPS sensors in the cameras, individual images are stitched together, then combined with other information to create high-resolution photographic maps. One of our clients, for example, used high-resolution aerial photography for a major electrical transmission line project. The imagery helped them identify routes that would minimize the impact on the environment and local residents.

The 5 Fundamental Storage Challenges of High-Res Aerial Imagery

What many companies are struggling with today is the strain these files place on traditional storage infrastructure. Based on experiences with our clients in this space, we’ve identified four fundamental storage challenges:

1. Scale: Unstructured data is already growing at tremendous rates across industries. High-resolution aerial imagery falls in the GBs or 10s of GBs scale, and the associated project files can be 100s of GBs. This compounds the existing unstructured data growth rate, forcing companies to expand storage capacity earlier than expected.

2. Distributed Access: The images are uploaded at one site – often a secondary or remote location without the appropriate infrastructure – and they need to be made available to additional locations without latency. Because the images are so large, relying on a hub-and-spoke architecture that pushes files to and then out from a central data center will lead to poor performance at the edge.

3. File Sharing: Mapping programs like ArcGIS need to be connected to hundreds or even thousands of files. Team members in different offices have to be able to access those files. Other company projects might also need access to a subset of those files.

4. File Locking: Multiple projects utilizing the same files creates a many-to-many problem. In this scenario, files need to be locked during editing to manage changes.

5. QoS: Cloud Storage is a great way to address the scale problem, but any system that saps all the available bandwidth when a user tries to retrieve a large file from the cloud is not a solution at all. All end users need to be able to keep working without latency or bandwidth problems, so a strong QoS approach is essential.

“Traditional storage infrastructure cannot deliver this combination of scalability and high-performance, intricately-managed access to files at a reasonable price point.”

Organizations that rely on high-resolution aerial imagery and the associated software tools need on-demand scalability, cost-effective data protection and high-performance, intricately managed access to files. But traditional storage infrastructure solutions simply cannot deliver these capabilities at a reasonable price point. Instead, firms that look to the legacy storage vendors to solve these problems will likely end up with a complex web of solutions from different providers that still fail to address IT pain or satisfy end users.

These are the kinds of challenges the cloud is designed to address, but companies need a system that helps them get the most out of that unlimited object store. And a viable QoS strategy is just the start. Organizations need a cloud-native solution that provides unlimited capacity, continuous versioning and high-performance distributed access with global file locking and fast local performance at the edge. And organizations need all this functionality to be wrapped into an integrated enterprise storage solution that costs much less than traditional storage.