(Eine deutsche Fassung dieses Beitrags finden sie hier)
From 9 to 13 of March, Christoph Graf and I have attended the Esri Partner Conference and the Esri Developer Summit in Palm Springs. In this blog post we report on, and assess, some of the trends that we identified primarily during the Partner Conference.
Christoph Graf (lef) and Ralph Straumann (right)
First of all, let’s state that this year’s conference was not dominated by a single buzzword (or at least less than it was by the term “cloud” three years ago). (We will discuss the most dominant concept in this year’s conference in the next section.) Instead, many parts within Esri and its product palette are moving simultaneously. The developments can be categorised into those that have been born from within Esri’s core and those that Esri has incorporated through acquisitions. The fine breaklines (between core products and newly acquired products) that the acquisitions introduced into the Esri software range are disappearing.
"Platform, platform, platform!"
Platform is clearly the term that has been used most during this year’s conference. Esri wants its product range to be understood as a platform. One could probably also call it an eco-system that can serve as a base to various and diverse solutions.
A crucial part (and also frequently-used term) is the Portal. The portal is the interface between servers and services on the one hand and desktop, web and mobile applications on the other hand.
The Esri portal comes in two flavours: along with the currently heavily promoted ArcGIS Online (hosted by Esri) as well as in the form of Portal for ArcGIS Server, the “ArcGIS Online behind the firewall”, i.e. within the domain of an organisation (see here and here). Esri’s platform strategy reinforces these two components within the eco-system. They will represent the single point of entry (or viewed from within an organisation: … of exit) for publishing, sharing, searching, discovering and using geodata, maps, and applications.
Top-class podium: Jack Dangermond, Sud Menon and Scott Morehouse (from left to right)
"Configure, don’t customize, stupid"
Esri follows a strategy of „more out-of-the-box“: Somewhat surprisingly within the frame of the Developer Summit, there was much talk about fitting solutions to a customer’s need through configuration rather than customisation. Esri is working on making the development of web applications and also (native, web-based, hybrid) mobile applications less and less complex for the users. They do this with so-calledApplication Templates and the new application Web Map Builder which allows everyone to produce web applications as well as afore-mentioned Application Templates.
Through this strategy, Esri hopes to gain an advantage with regards to agility. COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) software, i.e. the Esri products that you can license, should primarily be used. If required they can be configured, but they should not necessarily be customised. And finally Esri has (speaking from a European perspective) dared to posit that workflows of employees be shaped after the tools (and not the other way around).
The acquisition of Geoloqi in Portland (now an Esri R&D centre) has been a clear sign: Esri attaches considerable, and growing, value to real-time data. New tools such as the GeoTrigger and theGeoEvent Processor (coupled with mobile applications) are intended to satisfy (stationary or mobile) real-time data needs of customers.
This development renders geodata dynamic: The term geodata will encompass new types of data that have not been considered typically ”geo”. These are e.g. traditionally dynamic data that have a location, but for which location has so far been considered mostly one attribute of many (e.g. meteo data, environmental monitoring data (air quality, hydrometric data, etc.)). Here, Esri wants to unlock new markets.
With ArcGIS Pro or ArcGIS Professional, Esri has presented a prototype for the future of desktop GIS work. The name of this still somewhat mythical product is not a good one (yet) (ArcGIS light, anyone?). However, one thing is (almost) for sure: in this area, names will be ephemeral during the next few years.
ArcGIS Pro has been presented as an addition to the software range: Esri made a strong point that it will not replace ArcMap and ArcCatalog. Instead, these programs will exist side-by-side. ArcGIS Pro has the technical advantage of a 64bit-architecture and multithreading; thus, it should be clearly more performant (the demos did indeed look good in that respect). Conversely, this means that ArcMap and Co. won’t get these (actually long overdue) features anymore.
3D – again?
Three-dimensional data are a new focus of Esri (sharp tongues would say: renewed focus; even sharper ones: renewed every 5-7 years). At present this point has been clearly emphasised by the acquisition of the Swiss start-up Procedural (CityEngine): Esri believes in a strong added-value of three-dimensional visualisations and follows a holistic marketing approach by labeling CityEngine as a general-purpose collaboration platform with public engagement.
Esri’s 3D strategy is built on two (mostly independent, non-integrated) pillars: on the one hand there is the dedicated, quite complex expert tool CityEngine. On the other hand ArcGIS Pro will feature 3D visualisation and editing functionality as a central and quite seemlessly integrated component of a mixed 2D/3D environment (“it’s simply in the package“). In ArcGIS Pro, 2D and 3D will be at your fingertips, side-by-side and linked.
Finally, much progress has been made under the hood: the newest version of ArcGIS Runtime will see stark improvements of its 3D performance.
Maturation of mobile apps
Be it data capture in the field with an update for the teammates in the office or the coordinating office dispatching tasks to fieldworkers: A permanent data connection is not always given. Thus, in an increasingly mobile world synchronisation of offline data is crucial. Esri makes big efforts in this area and has managed to mature mobile apps for practical use.
In his Keynote Session, Chris Wanstrath, co-founder and CEO of GitHub spoke very eloquently about Social coding along the lines of the slogan: better together (you can watch his talk (as well as other talks) on Developer Summit website). Dropping out of college seems to be part of the experience of building a successful tech start-up in California. Or put differently: In order to be successful you’ll need passion, effort and focus on one thing. We are convinced of GitHub’s usefulness for our business and we thus have a company account.
Once more, the Esri Partner Conference and the Developer Summit have been very interesting and relevant events. We would like to give you deeper insight and we are happy to consult you regarding the changes that can already be anticipated. Please contact either me or Christoph Graf if you’d like to meet.
Palm Springs before sunrise