Jack Dangermond, President/Founder of Esri
Geography as a Platform: ARCGIS Online Provides Mapping for the Masses
ESRI HAS BEEN FRAMING AND working for some time on a cloud platform that has recently culminated in the launch of ArcGIS Online. Matt Ball corresponded with Jack Dangermond, president and founder of Esri, regarding this move toward Software as a Service (SaaS), and the impacts that it will have on the geospatial market and Esriís customer base.
BALL How has Esriís software architecture evolved over time, and how does ArcGIS Online extend the functionality?
DANGERMOND In the late 90s, our main technology pattern was stand-alone Windows desktops that were networked and integrated with database servers. Today, our users continue to use the desktop pattern extensively but have also deployed approximately 100,000 GIS servers within their organizations and on the Web. These enterprise GIS servers manage geospatial data and provide the foundation for enterprise applications ranging from lightweight apps in browsers and mobile devices to traditional desktop applications. While the desktop continues to be very popular for GIS professionals, the GIS technology has matured into an enterprise platform that is being employed to provide access to a wider audience of users.
ArcGIS Online extends Esriís enterprise technology by providing an integrated cloud offering. This platform implements many of our server and geospatial content management capabilities in the cloud and also offers a new and easy platform for mapping as well. Our traditional users are embracing these capabilities and integrating them into their existing systems, making their data and these new capabilities for easy mapping available to users across the organization. In many ways, this is a whole new market of users who want access to simple mapping and location analytics that this platform offers. We expect ArcGIS Online will rapidly grow the use of maps and geographic information within organizations. We refer to this as "geography as a platform."
Users who participate share their content, get to use the integrated services, and maintain the intellectual property rights of any content brought into this system.
BALL What are the technology underpinnings of this new offering?
DANGERMOND ArcGIS Online operates on cloud infrastructure offerings from Microsoft and Amazon Web Services but can also work in private clouds and data centers. Esri is providing ArcGIS Online as a subscription or a SaaS-based offering. In the first month, we have seen thousands of user organizations register to ArcGIS Online both from our existing users as well as from a whole new market of organizations. All these users wish simply to make maps and do locational analysis with their enterprise data.
BALL GIS, like all data-driven systems, relies heavily on quality data to achieve its true promise. While traditionally you provided software, youíve made significant investments in data.
DANGERMOND In recent years, we have made large investments in the content part of our product. We have included ready-to-use authoritative content as a significant component of the system. These include basemaps, demographic data, and imagery delivered as services for our users. We have also taken the approach of integrating the best available public content with a number of commercial and Esri-created datasets. This content is often shared by our end users in a "community approach," which both integrates and harmonizes data from multiple sources, while at the same time supporting users retaining the ownership of the content. Basically, users who participate share their content, get to use the integrated services, and maintain the intellectual property rights of any content brought into this system.
My hope is that this platform will support a whole new culture of collaborations. Maps, data models, workflows and apps from multiple organizations will be shared, combined, and used to address the challenging problems our world is facing today.
BALL How does ArcGIS Online address both your current market and new markets for your technology?
DANGERMOND ArcGIS Online is an enterprise mapping platform. Beyond mapping, it provides other services like global geocoding, routing, and the ability to integrate/mash-up data from multiple sources. These maps can be created by ordinary people, using a host of open data types such as csv files. They donít require an expert. This will make mapping more essential and a powerful common language across many industries.
For the traditional GIS users, ArcGIS Online provides geospatial content management in an elastic cloud infrastructure for hosting and easy integrating with the ArcGIS server environment.
The second market for ArcGIS Online is what we call "location analytics in the enterprise." The location analysis extends to more substantial Business Intelligence (BI) platforms. This capability is also being provided for Microsoft Office and SharePoint environments.
The third market is Web developers. ArcGIS Online provides this market with consumer-focused mapping services and provides a stronger and richer suite of APIs for developers.
BALL Much is being made of the online "Map Wars" between Google and Apple, with even Amazon re-entering online mapping with a recent acquisition. What is your view of this battle, and how does ArcGIS Online differ?
DANGERMOND We recognize that mapping and location-based servers are becoming pervasive in the consumer Internet and device space. We believe this is a good thing for our field as it drives great spatial literacy and understanding. While ArcGIS Online apps and services are increasingly replicating the consumer app experience, our focus is on the professional GIS and enterprise community. This work, while in some ways similar, requires different data models and functionality. It also requires integration with the enterprise computing environment.
Our work is directed toward this, as well as integrating the Web and device app into the geospatial professional workflows that need more advanced geospatial capabilities for their work. While there is some confusion, our experience is that organizations figure it out and there is strong demand for our approach and capabilities in both public and private organizations.
BALL Our world is going through profound changes that force us to look more closely at our impacts and the interrelated issues of sustainability. What role does GIS and mapping play in making sense of these changes?
DANGERMOND ArcGIS Online provides the opportunity to share authoritative source data and tools that help people more easily visualize, analyze and understand their world. Itís going to change the world. As our organizations become more spatially aware, they will see relationships and patterns that will cause people to think more deeply about geography. Whether itís the environment, land use, social issues, or policy issues, society will become more spatially aware.
My hope is that this platform will support a whole new culture of collaborations. Maps, data models, workflows and apps from multiple organizations will be shared, combined, and used to address the challenging problems our world is facing today. For example, we may see new approaches to land use planning, conservation, and natural resource management, as well as new understandings in human health and the environment. Organizations will consider various kinds of social and environmental data as part of their thinking about future development. All of this will increasingly be possible as we realize the vision of geography as a platform.
Editor's Note: This interview was conducted by Matt Ball, and originally appeared in Sensors & Systems, where he is editor. A longer version can be accessed online here.