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Spring 2008

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A Look Back at the 2008 Esri Developer Summit

Attendees Get a Glimpse of ArcGIS 9.3, Glean Insights from Software Designer Alan Cooper

More than 1,200 developers representing 69 organizations in 49 countries attended the 2008 Esri Developer Summit, where they previewed Esri's next release: ArcGIS 9.3.

photoThey received their firsthand look at the ArcGIS 9.3 platform during the three-day summit in Palm Springs, California. They heard discussions about and watched demonstrations of the new JavaScript and REST application program interfaces (APIs) and learned about the enhancements to ArcGIS Engine, ArcGIS Explorer, ArcGIS Mobile, and ArcGIS Server.

They also listened to a keynote talk by Alan Cooper, who runs the software design company Cooper and is sometimes called "the father of Visual Basic."

Esri ArcGIS program manager Jim McKinney welcomed the developers and then provided an overview of ArcGIS 9.3. "The enhancements," he said, "will include better performance, security, and documentation, along with new resource centers. New JavaScript and REST APIs also will let developers easily access services provided by ArcGIS Server."

Said Scott Morehouse, director of Software Development at Esri, during the opening Plenary Session, "The primary objective of ArcGIS 9.3 has been to complete concepts and capabilities introduced at 9.2."

Web Emphasis

"The ArcGIS 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 system, not just the browser-based software but also to ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Engine. He said the Web means

  • A loosely coupled network architecture that allows different systems to interoperate in a federated fashion.
  • Content. There's a lot of content, searchable and available on demand in a ready-to-use format. "We've put a lot of work into making content available for the ArcGIS system as a whole."
  • Something easy to use. "I think people now have an expectation of simple access to information. They expect to be able to focus on their main job and not get stuck operating complex computer software."
  • Certain programming patterns and APIs. "You can see this most clearly with JavaScript and mashup techniques."
  • Participating in a larger ecosystem. "GIS is not a closed environment. It's a system that leverages and works with broader consumer, media, and enterprise technologies."

JavaScript and REST APIs

The new APIs were showcased at the Plenary Session and in technical sessions presented by the ArcGIS engineers who developed them. In the REST API session, there were demonstrations of how to use JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and Yahoo! Pipes to access backend REST services powered and published by ArcGIS Server. All resources and operations exposed by the REST API are accessible through a URL.

developers discussing code at the Esri Developer Summit 2007In the ArcGIS API for JavaScript session, there were demonstrations on how mashups can be built using JavaScript with REST that add map layers and tasks from ArcGIS Server to Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth. The JavaScript API comes in three flavors: ArcGIS API for JavaScript, ArcGIS JavaScript Extension for Microsoft Virtual Earth, and ArcGIS JavaScript Extension for Google Maps.

ArcGIS Engine and ArcGIS Explorer were also discussed during the Plenary Session. 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, GeoRSS support, and improved task frameworks. The audience also 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 modes.

Alan Cooper on Software Design

A pioneering software inventor, designer, and theorist, Cooper opened his talk with an anecdote about his experience, albeit limited, working with GIS about 15 years ago. "Jim (Barry of Esri) just handed me a T-shirt that says 'Geo-Geek' and I will proudly wear it," he said.

His talk focused on how to solve what he considers the No. 1 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.

Technical Sessions Popular

This year there were more than 40 technical sessions available to attendees, along with informal Tech Talks that followed. 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 ADF and ArcGIS Mobile. For example:

  • The Web ADF in ArcGIS 9.3 is a "hybrid development platform" that offers a well-balanced combination of client and server logic rather than only server. With the release of ArcGIS 9.3, it will be fully integrated with the Microsoft ASP.NET AJAX library. It will have faster map blending, more client-side logic, and support for Visual Studio 2008.
  • ArcGIS Mobile 9.3 will include an out-of-the-box configurable application. A mobile basemap tool has been added so users can easily create basemaps that also support large datasets. To make generating a mobile map cache easier, a new tool has been added that lets users extract layers.

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 conference, service pack updates, and anything related to ArcGIS products.

More Information

People who were unable to attend the conference can download the technical presentations, audio/screen capture recordings, and sample code from the Esri Developer Network (EDN) Web site

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