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MariaDB set to expand geospatial database capabilities

With the purchase of CubeWerx, the database vendor will add geospatial capabilities to its SkySQL database service that will enable satellite imagery analysis in applications.

Database vendor MariaDB acquired privately held geospatial data technology vendor CubeWerx in a deal made public on Thursday that will bring the vendor in line with competitors that already offer geospatial capabilities.

MariaDB is in the process of preparing for an initial public offering, though the vendor has not said when the actual IPO will happen. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Alongside the acquisition, MariaDB joined the Geospatial Consortium, an organization that is working on building standards and best practices for using geospatial information.

CubeWerx, based in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, has developed a technology it calls the Stratos Geospatial Platform, which lets organizations load, manage and analyze geospatial data.

MariaDB has had limited support for geospatial data in the past and will now work to integrate the CubeWerx technology into its SkySQL cloud database as a service. The vendor, based in Redwood City, Calif., does not currently plan on bringing the CubeWerx technology into the open source edition of its MariaDB database.

The move to support geospatial capabilities is one that other database vendors have also taken in recent years. CockroachDB added geospatial support in its 20.2 update; MongoDB 6.0 also supports geospatial data types, including GeoJSON objects.

The biggest challenge that MariaDB will face with its new geospatial capabilities is likely to be in educating users on how the technology works. However, Lynne Schneider, analyst at IDC, said she sees opportunity in the combination of MariaDB and CubeWerx.

"We see growing demand for location and geospatial intelligence, and not every database tool is ready to handle the challenges of this type of data," she said. "The combined companies are aiming to solve for both speed and handling complexity."

What geospatial data capabilities can enable

With CubeWerx, MariaDB is acquiring a mature vendor with a 25-year history. CubeWerx was founded in 1996 by a team of developers that previously helped develop the Oracle Spatial database service.

"We've been thinking about geospatial and the database for a very long time," said Glenn Stowe, co-founder and vice president at CubeWerx.

We see growing demand for location and geospatial intelligence, and not every database tool is ready to handle the challenges of this type of data.
Lynne SchneiderAnalyst, IDC

The model CubeWerx has developed is an approach to enable geospatial applications that can use a database as well as an application server. CubeWerx brings multiple new capabilities to the MariaDB SkySQL platform, Stowe said. One such capability is support for different types of geospatial images, including satellite and aerial drone imagery.

"CubeWerx has spent a lot of time and a lot of effort coming up with mechanisms to deal with that kind of geospatial imagery information and being able to import it into the database," Stowe said.

The CubeWerx technology doesn't necessarily store satellite images in the database, which can currently be achieved with cloud object storage. Rather, CubeWerx's technology focuses on indexing and creating metadata around the geospatial imagery so that users can query and analyze the images effectively.

One application Stowe cited is burn scar analysis, in which a user identifies the impact of fires across a region using satellite imagery. Geospatial data can be used to estimate risks related to potential fires and floods.

Integrating with MariaDB

Stowe said he's hopeful that the integration of CubeWerx and MariaDB will help developers build geospatial applications.

"There has been a shift in how people build geospatial applications on top of databases," he said. "They no longer access a database directly for queries. It's all done through APIs now."

While it's still early days for the integration, MariaDB's plan is to integrate CubeWerx with MariaDB SkySQL over the coming months.

"We don't have a precise timeline yet, but I would say in short order -- hopefully in a few months -- you will start seeing geospatial data as a service capability in SkySQL," said Jags Ramnarayan, vice president and general manager for SkySQL at MariaDB.

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