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Esri's answers on trends and technology

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Every year, Esri asks users who are attending the Esri International User Conference about their interests and concerns and how Esri is doing. The results of this survey help Esri plan software development and make decisions on how to prioritize its efforts. Generalized answers to questions posed by users are compiled and shared with users prior to the conference. Of the more than 200 answers about Esri's strategy and vision for its products in the coming year from this year's Q&A, this sample highlights important trends and developments. To read all the answers, visit 2010 ESRI International User Conference Q&A.

Q: What is the meaning behind this year's user conference theme, Geography–Opening the World to Everyone?

When Stewart Brand lobbied the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to release the first photograph of earth taken from space in the 1960s, he knew that photograph would have a tremendous impact in changing the way we viewed the environment and our relationship with it. Today, anyone with Internet access can get a similar view of the earth, and then quickly zoom in to the level of their city, their neighborhood, and even their home. This near-universal access to geographic knowledge is revolutionizing our ability to understand how our world works physically, biologically, and culturally.

David Harvey said, "Geography is too important to be left to geographers." The combination of increased availability of geographic knowledge and easier access through mobile devices and the Internet is opening the world of geographic knowledge to everyone. And the democratization of geographic knowledge—both its widespread use and its universal creation—is resulting in a new kind of infrastructure: a geospatial infrastructure. Over time, society will become increasingly dependent upon this geospatial infrastructure, much as it has become dependent on other, more traditional forms of infrastructure such as electrical grids or highway networks.

GIS is the technology we have come to rely on to operate this infrastructure of geographic knowledge. And GIS professionals will be increasingly relied on to build and maintain this infrastructure.

Q: What are the key new features of ArcGIS Server 10?

ArcGIS Server 10 includes powerful new capabilities and enhancements. Here are the highlights:

Web editing: ArcGIS Server includes built-in capabilities for Web editing, enabling geo-collaboration workflows, crowd sourcing, and volunteered geographic information applications. Web editing is made possible through a new editing service called a feature service and is available through all clients including Web browsers (JavaScript, Flex, Silverlight), mobile devices (iPhone, Windows Mobile, and later in the year through Android), and desktops (ArcEditor, ArcInfo).

Better mapping and enhanced map services: Cartographic representations and Maplex are now supported by optimized map services, allowing you to accelerate the creation of map caches and render your data on the fly. ArcGIS Server 10 map services now also expose geodatabase relationship classes, attachments, and stand-alone tables. Finally, map services now handle temporal data, so you can easily create map animations in your Web mapping applications.

Improved map caches: A new map cache format called compact cache speeds up the creation of map caches and dramatically simplifies management of very large caches.

More out-of-the-box Web mapping applications: Two new applications in ArcGIS.com allow for quick creation and dissemination of ArcGIS Server mashups: ready-to-use Microsoft SharePoint Web Parts and ArcGIS Viewer for Flex, a new configurable out-of-the-box application.

Enhanced geoprocessing framework: This includes out-of-the-box models for clip/zip/ship workflows as well as high-quality map generation (output to PDF format) and new network solvers.

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) deployment: The Amazon EC2 provides a new alternative deployment model for ArcGIS Server offering real-time access to vast amounts of computing, network bandwidth, and storage in the cloud. Ready-to-use Amazon Machine Images, as well as best practices documentation for deployments in this cloud, are part of the ArcGIS Server 10 release.

Q: What is ArcGIS.com and how will I use it?

ArcGIS.com is a new Web site designed as a fundamental part of the ArcGIS system. The site provides a gateway to your online GIS experience and is intended be a useful destination for anyone—GIS professionals, Web developers, and those that want to view maps or create their own maps simply and quickly. The site and its resources are published in the Amazon cloud and represent a free set of cloud services for the ArcGIS system.

The following are some of the things you can do at ArcGIS.com:

When you log in at ArcGIS.com, you have access to additional ArcGIS Online content and capabilities. For example, you can save and share your work as well as work collaboratively across the Web. We expect this platform to become increasingly important for the GIS community.

Q: What is Esri's strategy for cloud computing?

For several years now, Esri users have been consuming cloud map services through ArcGIS Online—perhaps not even recognizing them as cloud-hosted services. Many are without fees and seamlessly integrate with their GIS platform. Through ArcGIS Online Sharing, they have the ability to post and share their geospatial maps, layers, and tools to the ArcGIS community or create a select private group to exchange content related to a specific project or common activity.

Recently, Esri released ArcGIS.com as one of the clients to ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS.com provides a gateway to share and discover maps, Web apps, mobile apps, and rich ArcGIS Desktop documents and geodatabases. Any Web user or mobile user can leverage the existing Web maps and apps at ArcGIS Online and, most importantly, have the ability to add their valued data, establishing a community cloud for the diverse and global society of geospatial professionals.

With the recent release of ArcGIS Server for the Amazon platform, Esri supports the deployment of preconfigured ArcGIS Server and enterprise geodatabase machine images in the Amazon cloud infrastructure. This is an attractive innovation for GIS professionals both in the field and in the office. For a geospatial technologist, cloud GIS can ideally mean that data is always available, always accessible. For the mobile worker, the cloud offers an expansive field to speed workflow productivity and collaboration. Shared data and applications in the cloud can be immediately accessed to discover, view, edit, save changes, and invoke geoprocessing functions for on-demand results. For example, the Gulf oil spill involves very large datasets, many and variable numbers of users, and the need to be up and running in a short amount of time.

There are some basic service models associated with cloud, such as Software as a Service, or SaaS, which are end-user applications delivered as a service, on demand, in a cloud infrastructure. Examples are Esri Business Analyst Online, ArcGIS Explorer Online, and the ArcGIS Web Map viewer. A second service tier in the cloud is Platform as a Service (PaaS), which is an application platform or middleware as a service on which developers can build and deploy custom applications. Here you would find the Esri Web mapping APIs (JavaScript, Flex, and Silverlight). Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud platform lives at this tier as well and can be leveraged by ArcGIS developers using the ArcGIS API for Silverlight. There is also the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) tier, which provides the cloud consumer with the ability to control and provision operating systems, storage, firewalls, etc., in a cloud infrastructure. Amazon Web Services is currently the most prominent cloud option at this tier. For Esri, ArcGIS Server on Amazon EC2 is an example of a cloud solution leveraging the infrastructure in Amazon Web Services' data centers.

Q: What is the Community Maps Program?

The Community Maps Program represents a cooperative effort by the ArcGIS community around the world to build multiscale, online global basemaps and make them freely available to anyone. These cached, authoritative Web maps are built using the best available data sources from GIS organizations in cities, counties, countries, and private companies in the user community and are authored at multiple levels of detail, including map scales as large as 1:1,000.

The Community Maps Program enables your organization to contribute its authoritative content to these online world basemaps while retaining ownership of the data.

Organizations of all sizes benefit by integrating accurate, up-to-date information into these high-quality online world basemaps. Using these Web maps reduces the cost for making your data widely available and offers a reliable way for your users to access critical information for a host of online GIS applications. These shared community maps also establish a valuable resource for citizens and businesses that are available all day, every day. They help you bring your GIS to life for the benefit of your users.

The Community Maps Program has three basemaps: the World Topographic Map, World Street Map, and World Image Map. Organizations that have contributed data include MassGIS, Commonwealth of Massachusetts; City of San Francisco, California; District of Columbia Geographic Information System; the City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and Instituto Geográfico Português.

The community basemaps are available through ArcGIS.com and can also be accessed directly from within ArcGIS Desktop 10, ArcPad 10, and ArcGIS for iOS. Read more about how you can participate in the Community Maps Program (www.esri.com/communitymaps).

 

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