Friday, June 3, 2016

Belly of the BEAST

A bank of 2 TB hard drives in our Data Center.
In an effort to better support processing and managing “Big Data,” Michael Baker implemented the Baker Enterprise Architecture for Spatial Technology (BEAST) platform. The BEAST is a fully integrated enterprise solution that allows for server-side and cloud-based processing, production, storage, and hosting within a single framework.

The BEAST hosts a variety of tools that are available to all Michael Baker offices and enables our staff to collaborate on projects in an effective and efficient environment across offices, regions and even continents.

Michael Baker employees typically access the BEAST via Citrix MetaFrame interface. This allows users to access the data through a thin client with all data and software residing “in our private cloud”.

Software and database solutions that we use for LiDAR processing and feature extraction or GIS product production include Optech’s LiDAR Mapping Suite (LMS), ArcGIS (in multiple flavors), Orbit GT, SQL Server, FME, MicroStation, GeoCue, TopoDOT and LizardTech GeoExpress along with custom developed applications. By utilizing fully virtualized environments, the BEAST allows for unparalleled flexibility to rapidly scale additional resources for large-scale project delivery. In many cases, we will also utilize Amazon and Microsoft Cloud services for surge needs; while we continually evaluate overall cost effectiveness of those and other cloud platforms considering the practicalities of uploading and storing terabytes of LiDAR data each day to a cloud service.

Two 56 TB storage servers at a local production office.
In our last posting, Aaron briefly questioned how you would manage 4 terabytes of new data on a daily basis. One of our solutions is the management of data and core processing functions at the BEAST. Where more robust processing is required and a thin client simply will not do, we push data to offices for further processing. Our regionally based processing centers have robust LiDAR server solutions with 50 – 200 Terabytes of storage each. Due to increase network traffic to support the rotund datasets, we have deployed Cisco Meraki network infrastructure for Multi-gigabit connectivity.


Art Morris is a Systems Analyst in Michael Baker's Harrisburg office.  Art joins the Mobile LiDAR team from IT Services, to focus his talents on the acquisition, transfer, and processing of the vast amount of LiDAR data collected by our vehicles.

Art's IT background helps him to act as a liaison between departments, offices and regions, to ensure synergistic collaboration between the Mobile LiDAR team and Michael Baker's IT organization.

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