Traditionally two members of #TeamEBP visit Esri’s annually DevSummit in order to hear the latest from the world of ArcGIS – and beyond. This year, my colleague Sarah Schöni and I had the chance to fly to California. In this post, we’d like to summarize the highlights from our point of view:
- The overall theme: „Web GIS is a System of Engagement“
- The Keynote: Douglas Crockford
- The State of Esri Technology
- Python is now a first class citizen in Esri’s world
- What else is new and cool? Insights and Vector Tiles!
- One more thing…
The overall theme: „Web GIS is a System of Engagement“
Esri usually has an overall theme that they want to get across, such as mobile in 2011, online in 2012 or platform in 2014. This year’s theme „engagement“ is based on Geoffrey Moore’s paper on „Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT“: In the past, organizations have built transactional tools and systems specifically designed for their business processes. The systems are mostly static, very accurate, mostly complete and tightly controlled – they are systems of records. With the advent of consumer IT, we’re moving closer to systems of engagement, where the focus is on interaction, collaboration, openness and immediate answers.
Esri has transferred Moore’s theory of systems of engagement to GIS: They use the term „Web GIS“ as a synonym for a geo-information system of engagement: In this sense, a Web GIS is built on distributed servers, web clients, several focussed apps and it provides an open, real-time environment for engagement in your organization. If you are interested, you can read Jack Dangermond’s post about Esri’s vision.
The Keynote: Douglas Crockford
The State of the Esri Technology
It seems that Esri’s server technology has reached maturity. ArcGIS for Server consists of two core components: the backend (the actual ArcGIS server software) and the frontend (the so-called Portal for ArcGIS). The backend has been around for nearly a decade (anyone remembers 9.0?) and the frontend is basically a self-hosted version of ArcGIS Online.
- Desktop: ArcGIS Pro has been announced 2 years ago and is now in version 1.2. It is close to becoming mainstream, but Esri stresses that ArcMap – the long-running desktop solution – will continue to be developed and supported for the next 10 years. However, new features (like generation of vector tiles) are unlikely to be developed for the „old“ platform.
- Runtime: For developing independent GIS applications, ArcGIS Engine was the go-to solution in Esri’s world. With ArcGIS Runtime and the announcement of the Quartz architecture, there is now a new architecture to depend on in the future. At the time of writing, there is no final release yet (though beta versions for mobile are available). It is expected that versions for iOS and Android will be released in the second quarter, while the other versions (.Net, Tamarin, Java, Qt) will be released in the Q3.
My recommendation regarding the transition of the three Esri components mentioned above: For every new project, you now have to carefully choose between the old and the new technology. There is no general advice on what is best, because it depends on the requirements of your project. If in doubt, you may consider to ask us to help you out ;-).
Python is a first class citizen in the Esri world
Talking about migration: Python has been recommended as your first option for extending ArcGIS platform functionalities. One reason is that migrating Python code from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro is much simpler than migrating .Net code, because the ArcPy library has not changed much (except
arcpy.mapping and of course some necessary adaptions due to the shift from Python 2.x to Python 3.x). So, to quote an Esri staff member: „Use more Python and less ArcObjects“.
But there was a lot more on Python, like ArcGIS integration with the packaging manager Conda and the outlook that Jupyter notebooks (formerly known as IPython notebooks) will be part of the ArcGIS platform (probably late 2016, maybe early 2017). I’m quite excited about the Jupyter integration, because then you may edit, explore and share your ArcGIS Python sessions and even take advantage of the power of SciPy, pandas and other great Python modules. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many details available on this.
What else is new and cool? Insights and Vector Tiles!
Last, but not least, we want to talk about two new cool things that have been unveiled at this year’s DevSummit:
- Insights for ArcGIS: This demonstration was the most impressive one and was much talked about during the conference: It is basically „GIS for Data Scientists“. Just have a look at the product page or watch the 8-minute video and you get a glimpse of how easy GIS can be: Just drag-n-drop a county outline on a map of points and you get an aggregated view. Or select a slice of a histogram and the corresponding features in the map as well as on a scatter plot are highlighted.
- Vector Tiles: Vector tiles have been announced last year, but now you can generate them from ArcGIS Pro and publish them directly on your ArcGIS Portal. At least with vector tiles, the old saying „Raster is faster, but vector is corrector“ does not hold anymore: Publishing the entire world as vector tiles takes 8 hours on a desktop machine (with 16 GB RAM and SSD) and consumes about 13 GB of disk space. Compare this to weeks of processing and dozens of terabytes of disk space for traditional raster tiles. As Esri adopted the MapBox specification for vector tiles, the tiles should eventually be consumable by non-Esri clients (and also non-Esri tiles by ArcGIS clients). But these setups are apparently work in progress and may yield unexpected results at the moment.
One more thing
But there is one more thing and a personal note: I would like to plug my lightning talk that I gave during the DevSummit. It was about a topic, that I am planning to expand on this blog in the future: