Reading Between the Lines of Intergraph’s Product Development Strategy

By Joe Francica

Sometimes the corporate presentations about product strategy and future direction, which are made to clients at user conferences, get lost in translation. There may actually be good information in there, but piecing the tidbits together may require some effort. Begin, perhaps, with the big picture, but then drill down to discover the critical details. Teasing out the golden nuggets of information from these presentations can take some mining.

The presentation about the Security, Government and Infrastructure (SG&I) Division, which is the team that develops the geospatial technology for Intergraph, was delivered in parts during the Intergraph 2009 User's Conference in Washington, D.C., held June 15-18. John Graham, president of the division, who was appointed just 10 months ago, began the discussion and Mark Doherty, executive director of strategy, a 20-year veteran of the company, continued it.

Graham delivered vision rather than substance; Doherty got down to the specifics.

Intergraph is moving toward a common software architecture. It's not imminent and may, in fact, be a long way off. Intergraph has three distinct product lines that would be affected: GeoMedia (for GIS applications), G/Technology (for utility-specific workflows) and TerraShare (for imagery and photogrammetry). For now and the foreseeable future, the company will pick and choose the best code or modules to use and re-use within all three product lines. For example, GeoMedia may have a stronger visualization engine than G/Technology, whereas TerraShare may handle raster data better than the others. In my conversation with CEO Halsey Wise, he emphatically stated, "There is no 'uber' product."

Doherty made clear that the company will go down this path with the customer in mind, and in incremental stages in order not to change too much, too fast. The company will try to reduce the impact on the client organizations. During major product updates, customers are sometimes caught up in the decision to install an upgrade just when users were becoming familiar with workflows from the past version. However, Doherty wanted to make sure clients understood some of the trends driving product development. He focused primarily on service oriented architecture (SOA). SOA, in simplest terms, is a framework for adopting industry standards for software development. It allows applications that follow these standards to work in concert. In the area of virtualization and cloud computing, the company will be certifying products on Citrix XenAPP (for clients) and VMWare ESX (for servers) and will be monitoring the uptake of other solutions like Microsoft HyperV. For example, GeoMedia 6.1 is certified on Citrix XenApp. In terms of hardware architecture platforms, Intergraph is working on prototyping existing technology to move it to 64-bit architecture with a focus on the server side. Some lower level systems have already been moved. On the database side, the company will still rely upon on Oracle Spatial and will adopt Microsoft SQL Server Spatial extensions. At the application tier, Microsoft.NET will be used to support the SOA vision but Intergraph is also aware of the need to integrate with non-Microsoft platforms.

Intergraph also realizes the need to ingest multiple datatypes such as full motion video, LiDAR and 3D. MotionVideo Analyst, a new product in "alpha" development, takes a georegistered video and "fuses" the scene within a map viewer. For example, a video taken from aerial reconnaissance can be played within a polygon that is inscribed on the map, almost as if you had a "window" for viewing the data. Also, with the division's focus on security applications, in particular those for computer aided dispatching (CAD) systems, Intergraph will support the next generation of 9-1-1 systems.

Intergraph will integrate 3D in GeoMedia with partner, Skyline. The solution will not just visualize, but also analyze data. In the area of photogrammetry, Intergraph will release a new mid-format camera to collect 3D information with a resolution of 42 megapixels. The next release of G/Technology will use GeoMedia rendering and GeoMedia will support Flash to replace the older scalable vector graphics (SVG) technology that had been supported for years.

Perhaps above all else, Intergraph will continue to focus on open standards and helping clients conform to a common spatial data infrastructure, especially in Europe where the INSPIRE initiative has received support from the European Union. Intergraph has had a long-standing commitment to support these major initiatives and it is adjusting its software development strategy to meet those demands. In addition, it is giving its clients a long-range vision of supporting SOA and moving some applications to cloud computing. It will continue to improve GeoMedia but target feature and function enhancements to be parallel with its efforts to market into specific vertical markets.

Published Friday, June 26th, 2009

Written by Joe Francica

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