Interview: @Esri Moves GIS Into the Cloud | @CloudExpo

Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute) dates to 1969, and is known throughout the world as the pioneer in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Led by its original founder and president, Jack Dangermond, the company today has embraced cloud computing as it’s grown to 3,000 employees serving 350,000 clients.

We had some questions for Dave Peters, Esri Manager for Systems Integration; our interview with him is provided below. Dave will also be speaking at @CloudExpo, on the topic of “Why Are Enterprises Flocking to SaaS Mapping and Location Analytics?”

Cloud Computing Journal: What are the big technical and organizational challenges you’ve seen in integrating cloud-based mapping and analysis within an existing enterprise IT architecture?

Dave Peters: Committing to investing in the cloud was our first challenge–and that was an organizational challenge that required teaming with a broad community of government and private agencies to build and share online geographic content (basemaps, street maps, imagery, and community maps) for the entire world. Once that commitment was made, our challenges were more of a technical nature and occurred in this order:
1. Building and maintaining content in a common framework for sharing geographic information. Partnering with Amazon and Microsoft, we delivered ArcGIS Online, a cloud-based geospatial platform that has been rapidly adopted and today supports millions of users worldwide.

2. Building and deploying a cloud-based portal technology that would be easy to use and simple to manage. Our goal was to establish a simple Software as a Service (SaaS) mapping architecture for sharing, collaborating, and publishing intelligent maps within a role based security framework to allow organization members to create groups and share content within a publisher-defined and controlled community of users.
3. Publishing Online Web Map information products to end users. Esri cloud-based portal technology includes ArcGIS Online downloadable apps that can share geographic content with a full range of desktop and mobile platforms including Android, iOS/MAC, Windows and Web browsers; users can publish online Web Maps and view content from any device at any location over the Internet.

4. Expanding online services to include geographic analysis delivered with the Web Maps. Esri partnered with Microsoft Azure to include high value geospatial services (spatial analysis functions, geocoding, demographics, and more) as an integral part of the cloud-based ArcGIS platform.
Like Esri, many organizations face challenges in adapting their business operations to changing business and social technology patterns (sharing, collaborating, and adapting to social change). They experience the social benefits at home – but are not ready and willing to risk this adjustment in their work place environment. We are seeing a new generation of business opportunities enabled by pervasive Internet access and social media, and empowered through deployment of cloud-based technology.
Organizations have the choice of using ArcGIS Online or deploying Portal for ArcGIS internally to build and maintain their own cloud. The biggest challenge for most organizations is one of trust with cloud-based security, and for this reason they choose to deploy Portal for ArcGIS to leverage benefits within their own organization.
CCJ: How have these challenges evolved over the past year, and how do you think they will evolve over the next few years?

Dave: The challenges for organizations to include ArcGIS Online services are rapidly evaporating, as Esri Cloud-based operations are reducing the complexity and expanding the usability of GIS technology throughout government, business, and a growing number of industries worldwide. Existing Customer ArcGIS investments include Cloud-based portal technology, accessed through ArcGIS Online or deployed on-premise with Portal for ArcGIS and ArcGIS for Server technology.

Many of the challenges we face over the next few years are driven by software, data, processing, and network technology – technology advances are increasing rapidly growing community demands on the available communication infrastructure:
The growing community interest and trust in Cloud-based operations may well outpace available Internet communication capacity over the next few years – there are GIS capabilities that still perform best on dedicated local desktop platforms.
New desktop applications are doubling and tripling processing and network infrastructure loads – really cool stuff that brings a world of information to life.
ArcGIS 3D spatial operations and real-time dynamic 3D virtualization is increasing demands on graphics processing and the existing Internet bandwidth infrastructure.
Heavy dynamic graphic processing and higher resolution client display traffic demands make professional desktop solutions difficult to deploy in a Cloud environment.
Performing real-time analysis on big data resources to solve problems in real-time is possible with emerging software and hardware technology – this is where GIS technology is going.

CCJ: What benefits do your customers ultimately receive once they’ve integrated your company’s solutions?

Dave: ArcGIS Online cloud-based content and services immediately expand ArcGIS customer GIS resources, enriching and building actionable geographic business intelligence that directly add to better understanding and more informed business operations. ArcGIS Online ready-to-use applications reduce deployment risk and rapidly deliver benefits to the organization that in the past would take several months to years to build on their own.
The ArcGIS Platform is fully integrated with existing on-premise Enterprise GIS operations. Customers with Internet access can leverage online content and receive Cloud-based service benefits within their current investment portfolio, continuing to leverage their existing investment as they expand capabilities to include online services and content. Customers that do not have Internet access can deploy Portal for ArcGIS on-premise and benefit from the same cloud-based content management capabilities.
The ArcGIS Online Maps and Apps are simple and easy to use, and include access to free online video training. Any member of an ArcGIS Online organization can easily build and share a story map. Web maps can be shared and viewed on any device using free Android, iOS/MAC, and Windows Esri map clients available from the proprietary app stores. They can be shared to members within the organization, to groups of users you identify for collaboration and sharing, or with the public community.
ArcGIS Online includes simple mapping and location analytics through an Esri Maps plug-in to your existing business application (Microsoft Office, SharePoint, and Dynamics CRM; SAP; Salesforce; IBM Cognos, and more), integrating your business data with ArcGIS Online GIS mapping resources.
The advantages of available Cloud-based content and services for ArcGIS customers are compelling. Cloud technology has transformed ArcGIS to a fully integrated open platform for organizations to discover, create, manage, visualize, analyze, and collaborate using geographic information on a global scale.

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