Manage Your Content – Integrate Your Content
I talked a little bit on the WeoGeo blog last week about how we were very focused on content management. Yea, very sexy stuff… But what I think it highlights is the way that we can share our data with each other. Getting your data “into the Cloud”, whatever that means these days, and then using it as much as possible gives you the best return on your investment. One thing that did come up at the FedUC in February was the huge adoption of ESRI’s ArcGIS Online Map Services among users. Using these great free services as backdrops to your mapping content gives you a great starting point. But how you can integrate your geo-content into them is critical. Making it as easy and simple to do is how you’ll be able to leverage your data.
The “Map Sandwich”
ESRI’s cartography blog of all places has the key to showing where data vendors (and just all around geo-Joes) can leverage their datasets in this new ecosystem of free web services. Now the blog post focuses on the cartography aspects of this mashup, but the huge takeaway here is that you can easily integrate your data into these free services in ways that your users/customers can leverage easily. What users want is to quickly integrate your data into their ecosystem. This means they want to consume them on their terms, not yours. Companies that successfully integrate with the Google, the Microsoft and large GIS vendors such as the ESRI, will see great consumption of their data. Those that create their own private data sharing sites or web services will see their fortunes decline, like Paul says.
A Window into the Future
I’ll tell you right now who I see fitting perfectly into this “Map Sandwich” world, Brian Flood’s Arc2Earth. Take a look at his demo app, “Tax Parcel Search – Westfield, NJ”. What is really cool about this demo app is that Brian has a link to the API that makes it happen. He based this API on some draft standards so it should be really easy to integrate into just about any application out there, but the chocolate syrup and cherry on top is his ArcGIS Server REST API Compatibility. Now, he still hasn’t released this publicly (at least that I can see), but it means that any data you create using his Arc2Earth API will be easily consumable in the ESRI ecosystem natively. No wacky WMS or WFS for ESRI users, this stuff will be copy and paste stupid easy.
Customers want this integration and it just isn’t ESRI users. We can sit on our high horse all we want and talk about open standards, but in the trenches people with money don’t have time for the OGC and others to get their act together (and even then they could care less).
“Give me a web service that integrates into my ArcCatalog natively and I’ll buy”
“I’m using the ESRI Flex API and want to use your dataset.”
Here is the ESRI REST URL, have at it.
Give Me Some of that Good Data-as-a-Feature
We should be looking at these Data-as-a-Feature services as opportunities to get our data into the hands of those creating applications. A quick look at the ESRI Mashup Challenge shows that there are tons of very useful apps screaming to integrate your data layers into them. You just need to make sure you provide the meat and let ESRI handle the bread and lettuce (maybe a little bacon too).
So the above example is “ESRI Centric”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid for EVERYONE. If your online geo-content isn’t in formats or services that can easily be integrated into popular mapping APIs and libraries, your data is not going be easily used. For the consultant, if you can’t deliver you data to your clients quickly and easily, they’ll look elsewhere for services (integrating with Drupal, SharePoint, whatever). For data providers, if I can’t grab your data and throw it into my OpenLayers mapping application or Silverlight API app by cutting and pasting lines of code, I’ll probably not use your data at all. You’d better start thinking this way because the landscape has changed, work with web services or be out of work. The writing is clearly on the wall, pay attention.