OK so how does all this now ESRI server stuff fit into the big picture? Well lets take Declan Butler’s wonderful avian flu outbreak informationn map. Declan used ArcGIS to create his map and then Arc2Earth to export that map to KML. This works great when for Declan because he’s just using this as an example/demo, but if you really want to share up to the minute information with digital earth clients, this model breaks down because it only gets updated when Declan manually uses Arc2Earth. Now lets say Declan had a nice big server running ArcGIS Server, he could serve this data up in a couple ways.
First off he could use the new cartographic tools in 9.2 to make a very visually pleasing map and serve up the the ArcGIS Server service for ArcGIS (ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Explorer, Web ADF) clients (both desktop and web) to consume (because if anyone has ever seen an ArcGIS Server demo, “rich clients” consume). Anyway that covers your ESRI users, but what about the rest of the world? Well you can offer up a KML network link that Google Earth users (World Wind and others too) can connect to. This KML won’t be as visually pleasing or as full featured as the AGS service, but it will be usable by many more people. In addition to the normal AGS service and the KML service, you can also offer up a WMS service for other users who would like the WMS option. So from one server product, you can cover almost all the spectrum (except for those people who want WFS, you can talk to Jeremy). And because it is “live”, you don’t need to worry about exporting it out every time there is a change.
OK so that picture is a little idyllic. I have no idea how much hardware would be needed to accomplish such a task and of course Declan on his own could never afford the hardware/software requirements for such an endeavor. Still if you think about how many organizations will now have access to ArcGIS Server because of the changes to the licensing, you can only hope that users of this new technology will want to share their data via KML, WMS or AGS for the community to integrate into their digital earth clients.
The days of using the standard ArcIMS HTML client are over and I think even to just assume the community at large will be happy with the new web ADF on its own is shortsighted. Giving people a choice of how to consume your services is the best way to ensure people actually use them.