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Geographic Information System: An Essential Tool for Operations and Business Decision Making for Physical and Virtual Networks

Geographic Information System: An Essential Tool for Operations and Business Decision Making for Physical and Virtual Networks

Maps have been essential tools since our ancestors first drew in the dirt with sticks. This ancient, yet still more sophisticated, map to the right dates back approximately 2,700 years. It was an early indicator that map making was also an art form. It still is. But it is a serious art form; particularly as it is applied to business.

Maps are used for more than accurately getting from point A to point B. They have long been used to convey important information such as controlled or enemy territory, land ownership, location of artifacts or important sites, and the paths of rivers. Mapping brought a sense of order to the world. As the practice advanced and became known as cartography—the art and science of visually conveying spatial information and creating maps—people developed a much better sense of their place in the world, and how big that world really was.

As mapping extended to the universe, perspective changed to how small our world really is. That it could alter humanity’s perspective to such an extent shows what a powerful impact this ancient technology has had, and how honing the art over millennia continues to impact modern civilizations. Today, mapping has become a software driven tool that has lost none of its artful quality, save the elegant name of cartography. The technology, or at least the output from the science behind it, is now known as the geographic information system (GIS.)

Map making continues to evolve with such techniques as 3D imaging; however, real change lies ahead as GIS taps into deep oceans of data, making itself invaluable to companies needing to better visualize their network, their business and their customers. This SPIE looks at how Esri, a Redlands, Calif.-based GIS company, has embraced data for solving today’s network and business challenges. The report also asks if the technology’s 2,700-year run will end when mapping is faced with trying to represent a network architecture comprised largely of virtual elements and cloud-based services.


  • Introduction1
  • Cartography for the Masses as GIS Goes Mainstream
    • The Evolving Nature of GIS
  • Connectivity is Key and it is a Location Problem
  • Operational Awareness is About More than Knowing the Network Status
  • Planning for Opportunity: From Mapping to Modeling
  • Detachment Syndrome: Letting Go of the Physical
  • The Last Word

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