Moving away from web based GIS

I’ve noticed an interesting trend during the last year with our clients. Many of them have decided that internally they don’t want web based ESRI ArcIMS or similar products. We’ve worked with them to create either stand alone ESRI MapObjects applications (hopefully we’ll upgrade them to ESRI ArcGIS Engine soon) or just using ESRI ArcPublisher and ESRI ArcReader. The MapObjects applications have been more geared at management who need access to the GIS information, but not the complexity. These applications usually answer “what if” scenarios that we used to program via the web. The clients who request them don’t have or don’t want to invest the money in server side (hardware and software) GIS. Most if not all of the ArcReader implementations we’ve done use ArcSDE to store the data (some even use ArcIMS services). These clients seem to want the added cartography options that can be created with ArcMap that we’ve never really been able to get programming AXL. Printing has also been an issue. While we’ve gotten pretty good with some of our layouts on the web, they just don’t look like the ArcMap products that their GIS teams are creating. With ArcPublisher they can have the exact map their GIS analysts are working on. I’ve just received an RFP from one client that wants to look into the new ArcGlobe features of ArcPublisher which should be perfect for displaying what they want.

I’ve always pushed web based GIS because you don’t need to install software to gain value from it. But it seems with today’s managed computer installs, rolling out ArcReader to all clients isn’t as difficult as it once was. I will say the one feature that ArcPublisher/Reader still doesn’t have is a better “pack and go”. I’d love to see a way to embed the GIS layers in the PMF so that you only need one file to send to people. PDF is a pretty good solution, but sometimes you just want to grab that ID tool and see exactly what the database behind a layer is hiding. Oh well, maybe ESRI ArcGIS 10?

We are still developing web based solutions for clients and are even currently working on an open source solution. I just think some people have been burned by overly complex websites in the past and don’t want the overhead of maintaining them or dealing with another department that might control the webservers.

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