Curious Planeteer working to make the Earth's changes visible, accessible and actionable.

Get Imagery Faster: Introducing Our Super-Fast New Web Tiles


The Planet Platform was designed to be web-first. Planet’s imagery can be downloaded and processed locally, but many of our users enjoy viewing imagery data through a browser. To provide a good experience, all imagery on the Planet Platform needs to be available instantly as web tiles for immediate visualization and interaction.

We’re happy to announce that we just launched our new web tile service—this means faster imagery for everyone. With this release, our performance data show a 2x speedup in the average time it takes to serve a tile. The biggest gains are in the higher percentiles: it used to be that the slower tile requests could take over one minute to process. Check out the “before” chart below; it illustrates the average imagery request latency over a day.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 3.05.00 PM

The spikes indicate that the server took a much longer time to process tile requests. The spike on the far right means that it took 59.04s for the tile server to respond.

Now check out this “after” chart:

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 3.21.46 PM

This chart is generated from monitoring the new web tiles service over the course of a day. At first glance, request latency looks much higher! But the y-axis measures milliseconds. The blue line is the average request latency and the orange dotted line is the latency in the 95th percentile. This means even requests that are slower than average are not that much slower i.e. no more huge spikes.

So what’s changed? The majority of the speed increase between graphs is from performing part of the computation eagerly instead of on-demand. This is also our first deployment on Elastic Beanstalk which is part of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) suite. Elastic Beanstalk provides some tools which we use for auto-scaling and monitoring the health of the web tiles cluster.

At the moment, the new web tiles server is only serving RapidEye imagery, but we’re looking forward to rolling it out for PlanetScope and Landsat imagery soon.

If you’re a Planet Platform user, you can log in to test out our newer, faster web tile server today. If you’d like to get a Planet Platform account, sign up here.