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Exploring the BlackBridge GeoCloud


Note from the Editor of Imagery Speaks: Bigger data has increased the desire for elasticity and the need for increased compute power. With that, cloud offerings from data providers are becoming more compelling solutions for traditional ENVI desktop users. Recently ENV5 (formerly Exelis VIS) and Planet (formerly BlackBridge) have formed a marketing agreement to promote the ENVI Software and BlackBridge’s GeoCloud solution.  This relationship will help RapidEye imagery users and other data users access the ENVI software inside of BlackBridge’s cloud for processing and analytics. There are number of cloud solutions on the market and we’re starting the process of walking through the various cloud offerings and the advantages they provide for ENVI users.

This guest blog by Jason Setzer, the Cloud Product Manager at BlackBridge, discusses the advantages of co-locating with RapidEye Imagery and BlackBridge's GeoCloud.

The advantages of cloud computing in earth observation are clear:

1.      The ability to quickly scale resources up and down as needed;

2.      Eliminating the risk of data-loss by maintaining copies in the cloud;

3.      Smaller costs compared to large capital expenses to build and operate similar systems;

4.      The ease of data access and sharing.

These undeniable benefits find themselves at the center of any conversation, but there is another significant advantage as we move into the era of common big-data applications. It is also advantageous to perform processing in the cloud, on the same high speed plane where large archives of data and imagery reside, such as the RapidEye archive of over 6 billion km2 of high-resolution multispectral imagery.

Let’s face it, acquisition, storage, management, and distribution for large imagery collections are no small tasks. Technology limitations, budgetary restraint, and staffing are among the challenges of even the most established organization.

Consider the precision agriculture market for remote sensing imagery. More and more, these RapidEye imagery users are subscribing to large collections of new and archive imagery. BlackBridge makes this possible through its Monitoring Programs for Agriculture, which are subscriptions to all imagery acquired several times throughout the growing season across specific areas, and archive imagery dating back from 2009.Customers are granted anytime access to self-serve their imagery as needed. As you may have guessed, this distribution is managed via a cloud platform.

The external link from the BlackBridge Geocloud for imagery products is via a robust internet connection. However, when a customer wishes to have near real-time access to very large quantities of RapidEye pixels on-demand, an even faster connection is desirable.

The fastest possible connection to terabytes of data is realized by customers who deploy their processes on BlackBridge IaaS (infrastructure asa service) virtual machines co-located with the RapidEye imagery archive. Organizations are able to use our API to programmatically call RapidEye and Landsat 8 imagery products into their workflows at lightning speed compared to typical download or even streaming web service models.

Having an imagery API is a great benefit for BlackBridge’s Monitoring Programs for Agriculture subscribers. Users are already liberated from yesterday’s limitations of hard disk shipments, ftp sites, and manual downloading. Now carry it a step further and compare the exponential improvement in access speed for customers operating within BlackBridge IaaS. 


Manual Download Scenario (parallel)

Distribution over internet via REST API (concurrent)

Distribution to BlackBridge IaaS via REST API (concurrent)

Product Count




10 @200 MB ea.

50 minutes

6 minutes

7 seconds

100 @200 MB ea.

8.3 hours

1 hour

7 minutes

1000 @200 MB ea.

3.5 days

10 hours

70 minutes

10,000 @200 MB ea.

34.7 days

4.1 days

11.6 hours

100,000 @200 MB ea.

347 days

42 days

4.8 days


In a recent scenario, BlackBridge welcomed a new Monitoring Program subscriber and IaaS user to its platform. This customer was able to bring over 120,000 RapidEye products into their processing workflow hosted in the BlackBridge GeoCloud, effectively processing new agriculture information products for the entire US back to 2009 in two weeks. The volume of data would have taken approximately 70 times longer to access and process by downloading to the user’s local environment. The other advantage is that the derived information product typically has a smaller file size (e.g. multispectral imagery to single band NDVI) and so downloading only the result saves on bandwidth costs and time.

As you can see, it is far more logical to deploy megabytes of algorithms and gigabytes of software next to terabytes and even petabytes of data than it does to pull the same volume of data down to a local environment. As always, download options for local copies of imagery are available. But now another path exists to access imagery and process derivative products right where the data sits.

Paired with the scalability, data security, and cost savings already mentioned, deploying ENVI in the BlackBridge GeoCloud is a powerful solution for large-scale analytics and big-data applications leveraging the RapidEye archive. ENVI users interested in how to use RapidEye imagery for their applications over very large areas are encouraged to contact the author to learn more.

About BlackBridge

BlackBridge provides end-to-end solutions across the geospatial value chain. These include satellite operations, ground station services, and worldwide satellite imagery distribution through over 100 BlackBridge partners, combined with the creation of value-added products and geo-service solutions. For more information on BlackBridge, please visit: https://www.planet.com/pulse/blackbridge/