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Do we still need an Installer for Data Products?

  • 1.  Do we still need an Installer for Data Products?

    Pitney Bowes
    Posted 07-04-2019 03:36

    StreetPro is one of the few data products we currently supply with an installer.  A few years ago we evolved from individual installers included in each product to a single global installer that could:

    • Be pointed at any StreetPro Display or StreetPro Classic individual zipfile or multiple product zipfiles
    • Provide an interface to allow customers to choose what to install and where
    • Would set up the data in Spectrum Spatial

    The Software and data marketplace makes it a lot easier to manage data product installations as you can now see a list of your products and pick which ones to download and install on demand.  If you want to automate the download and install process we provide an SDK for doing that easily. 

    So, I'm wondering if we really need an installer for any of our data products any longer.

    I've already had some client feedback around installers so it's time to outline the case

    The case against data product installers

    • Designed for desktop users, so doesn't allow for easy automated installation on servers
    • We have an SDK so you can download and install your data anyway you like it automatically
    • Overkill because we are only installing data not software so no customisation or integration with other software is usually needed
    • Compatibility issues – some installers won't run on Unix or iOS
    • Some firewalls block installer executables
    • We no longer deploy data on DVD so no autorun necessary
    • Loader tools can be supplied separately for those customers who still wish to use them
    • Inconsistent customer experience as very few datasets are delivered with an installer, most products come as zipfiles.


    The case for data product installers

    • Customers may still expect to have an executable to run
    • Allows easy set-up of the data to run in Spectrum Spatial
    • Allows correct folder structures to be set up and maintained
    • Catalogue functionality allows customers to choose and install only the files they want
    • Allows simple uninstall of data or overwrite of the data


    Have I missed any Pros and Cons here?

    How was your experience of using our installers?

    Do you think data product installers are still relevant and useful?

    Daniel Edwards
    Product Manager, Location Intelligence Data
    Pitney Bowes Software Ltd

  • 2.  RE: Do we still need an Installer for Data Products?

    Pitney Bowes
    Posted 07-11-2019 10:50
    Hi Dan - That's a solid list of pros and cons.  I generally come in on the side of no for data product installers.  However, in the case of some very complex data products, or if you want things specially set up for a specific targeted use/product (ex. Spectrum Spatial) I can definitely see the benefit.  I don't think this is necessarily a one-solution-fits all kind of issue.

    Cecily Herzig
    Maitland FL

  • 3.  RE: Do we still need an Installer for Data Products?

    Pitney Bowes
    Posted 07-17-2019 18:03
    Hi Dan
    Your list of Pros and Cons is pretty good. The other Con may be additional data storage, often zipped files, then installer and then the loaded data - but data storage isn't generally much of an issue.
    In my experience the loaders don't add considerable additional benefit for most users, however I agree single desktop use and the management of updated data is very valid. However this type of use and need has reduced considerably in past years. For installers to be of value these days they would have to run in all operating environments and export selected data in the selected datum into a broad list of environments, including all common databases and spatial formats. Even then security protocols and custom field name conversions etc undertaken by many customers would still limit applicability and as such value to the user.

    Gerry Stanley
    Pitney Bowes Australia Pty Ltd
    Macquarie Park

  • 4.  RE: Do we still need an Installer for Data Products?

    Posted 07-26-2019 02:59

    As a data company, the choice of "Installer" or "simple-zip" has been a challenge to us over the years. The conclusion I've come to is that neither is perfect for all scenarios.

    One additional advantage of the installer approach is that the package can be digitally signed with a code signing certificate. This gives an assurance to the end user that the package (which has most likely been downloaded these days) has not been tampered with, and potential malware introduced.

    Installers also give an opportunity to add things which need some integration with the operating system. A good example of this for us is a custom font which contains symbology used by some of our point layers. For the installer this is easy, but for a manual installation, there's the process of documenting an extra step.

    The biggest issues against installers is that of difficulty using them due to security lock-downs or installation on platforms other than Windows. Having used an installer for our global data products for several years, I've observed that problem increasing. When our current code signing certificate expires next year, I'll have to make the choice on continuation of installers. I suspect we'll stop using installers for data products next year, except when there is an integrated piece of software. Right now, I'm providing both options for some products, but that's unsustainable.

    Warren Vick
    Europa Technologies Ltd.

    Warren Vick
    Knowledge Community Shared Account
    Shelton CT

  • 5.  RE: Do we still need an Installer for Data Products?

    Pitney Bowes
    Posted 08-01-2019 09:40
    Thanks Warren,

    It's good to hear that others in the industry are thinking along the same lines.
    With the integration activities such as the custom fonts you employ, have you considered creating a simple tool to import the fonts?  I'm having a similar discussion on whether it's better to provide guidance documents or create a tool that customers can use to carry out the basic functionality the installer provided.
    It's a tricky line to tread as it adds overheads to maintain a tool but it also maintains customer experience and ease of use.


    Daniel Edwards
    Product Manager, Location Intelligence Data
    Pitney Bowes Software Ltd