OGC looks to adopt Zarr as standard, seeks comment

By on 25 August, 2020

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is seeking public comment as the group considers adopting the Zarr v2 Storage Specification as an official OGC Community Standard.

Comments are due by 11th September, 2020.

Zarr is an open-source specification for the storage of multi-dimensional arrays of data (also known as N-dimensional arrays, ND-arrays, or tensors). The OGC say such arrays are ubiquitous in scientific research and engineering.

Zarr stores metadata using .json text files and array data as optionally compressed binary chunks. Zarr can store data into most storage systems, including databases, standard ‘directory based’ file systems, and cloud object stores, such as Amazon S3. According to the OGC, this flexibility allows implementations to experiment with novel storage technologies while maintaining a uniform API for downstream libraries and users.

First used in genomics research in 2016, Zarr was created by Alistair Miles of Oxford as a library optimized for massively parallel array analytics. It has since grown into a community project with a range of developers and users from fields such as genomics, bioimaging, astronomy, physics, quantitative finance, oceanography, atmospheric science, climate science, and geospatial imaging.

Zarr has already been adopted by several OGC communities as a format for cloud-optimized, analysis-ready geospatial data. While Zarr is not inherently a geospatial-specific format, the OGC say it has been put forward by the Zarr Steering Council for adoption as an OGC community standard because of its rapid growth and adoption in geospatial and related fields.

An approved OGC Community Standard is an official standard of OGC that is considered to be a widely used, mature specification, but was developed outside of OGC’s standards development and approval process. The originator of the standard brings to OGC a “snapshot” of their work that is then endorsed by OGC membership so that it can become part of the OGC Standards Baseline.

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