By David Martinez, Esri Product Marketing
More than 1,200 developers from 49 countries attended the 2008 Esri Developer Summit, where they previewed Esri's next release: ArcGIS 9.3.
The three-day summit in Palm Springs, California, gave them a firsthand look at the ArcGIS 9.3 platform. Discussions and demonstrations focused on tips, best practices, and techniques for building and deploying server-based, Web, and mobile applications.
"The ability to directly interact with the Esri development team is invaluable-there is no quicker way of identifying and solving problems or getting advice," James Tedrick, a GIS specialist for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), said about the value of attending.
The developers also listened to a keynote talk by Alan Cooper, who runs the consulting company Cooper and is sometimes called "the father of Visual Basic."
"ArcGIS 9.3 is a follow-on to the 9.2 release," Scott Morehouse, director of Software Development at Esri, told the audience during the opening plenary session. "The primary objective of ArcGIS 9.3 has been to complete concepts and capabilities introduced at 9.2."
"The 9.3 platform places a much greater emphasis on the Web," said Morehouse. "The technology platform for GIS has evolved over the years. Initially, the focus was on leveraging minicomputers and workstations with an emphasis on high-performance computing and end-user interactivity. Then, the focus shifted to the database with an emphasis on information modeling and transactional data management. Now, the focus is on the Web. We have been working to put the Web at the center of everything that we're doing with the ArcGIS system."
Morehouse said Esri has worked to bring the Web-centric perspective into all aspects of the systemnot just the browser-based software but also ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Engine. He said the Web means
At the Plenary Session, Esri staff reviewed what enhancements GIS users will see in ArcGIS Engine and ArcGIS Explorer. ArcGIS Engine 9.3 will include improved dynamic display with better display caching. ArcGIS Engine also will include Microsoft SQL Server Express, allowing developers to use geodatabases stored in SQL Server Express as a data source.
The plenary demonstration of ArcGIS Explorer showed some new enhancements to look forward to in build 480. These include multithreaded performance increases, direct connection to ArcSDE, GPX support, Geographically Encoded Objects for RSS feeds (GeoRSS) support, and improved task frameworks. The audience received a glimpse of the direction of future improvements to ArcGIS Explorer such as a new ribbon user interface. ArcGIS Explorer users will also be able to view maps in 2D or 3D models.
At the end of the Plenary Session, Esri introduced its new resource centers for the ArcGIS products. Each ArcGIS product will have a resource center that centralizes all the information needed to be successful such as code samples, blogs, interactive software developer kits (SDKs), and documentation. Documentation in general will be improved with the ArcGIS 9.3 release.
A pioneering software inventor, designer, and theorist, Cooper opened his talk with an anecdote about his experience (albeit limited) with GIS about 15 years ago. "My work never saw the commercial light of day," he said, adding, however, that he still considers himself part of the community. "Jim [McKinney of Esri] just handed me a T-shirt that says 'Geo Geek,' and I will proudly wear it because I think of myself as a geo geek," he commented.
His talk focused on how to solve what he considers the number one problem in software design today. "It turns out that organizations that build software don't know how to integrate design from people who know how to do design," he said. "Management change is necessary to allow organizations that build and produce software to integrate the design process-I call it postindustrial management."
For example, he believes interaction designers should determine what must be built, design engineers should decide how software should be constructed, and production engineers should actually build the software. Cooper's presentation was well received, and he spent approximately 45 minutes after his presentation fielding questions from a large group of developers who chose to stay.
This year, there were more than 40 technical sessions available to attendees, followed by informal "tech talks." These focused sessions, which were well attended, provided best practices, tips, sample code, live demonstrations, and new features of ArcGIS 9.3.
Some of the key messages from the sessions related to the Web Application Developer Framework (ADF) and ArcGIS Mobile. For example:
Many attendees enjoyed the technical sessions and the informal tech talks that followed. "To be able to confer with the people that are actually developing the software that we are working with is a tremendous advantage . . . both to be able to solve current issues and to understand their mindsets on the construction and expected performance of the software," said Leah Twombly from Bartlett & West.
Esri development leads, product managers, and senior-level directors hosted a question-and-answer session on the last day of the summit. That gave attendees the opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions regarding improvements to the summit, service pack updates, and anything related to ArcGIS products.
"Meeting with the Esri developers and staff one on one is by far the best thing about the summit," commented Tom Rippetoe from CH2M HILL.
Those who were unable to attend the summit can download the technical presentations, audio/screen capture recordings, and sample code from the Esri Developer Network (EDN) Web site.