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Extensions for ArcGIS for Server

One of the more confusing things for new ArcGIS users is that they probably need either Spatial Analyst or 3D Analyst to do their work. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that every ArcGIS for Desktop license will have at some point either one of those extensions. As I’m getting back into Server though I’m starting to take a look at those extensions as well. Specifically the GeoEvent Extension has caught my eye. Conversations on Twitter basically expose that it either works or it doesn’t and it’s either great or maddening. Sounds like typical Esri software.

The thing about Server extensions though is they mostly have a Windows requirement to run (thankfully GeoEvent doesn’t). As I’ve jumped back into ArcGIS for Server I’ve been impressed with it’s maturity but alas it’s still a windows only product which limits its use in hosted environments. I’m not oblivious to the reasons why these things go Windows only but it is a shame that Workflow and Data Reviewer require windows. Hopefully as Esri transitions into a more software agnostic development environment, they’ll start fixing these Windows only requirements.

At least GeoEvent Extension runs on Linux, wish me luck with that….

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Using the Esri ArcGIS Server Cloud Builder

I’ve been playing with ArcGIS for Server 10.3.1 at Matrix and we’re all about running things with hosted services.  So rather than spec out some hardware and install ArcGIS for Server on local legacy machines, we’re doing it all in the cloud.  Because I’m new here there wasn’t any legacy AWS use so I was able to pick Azure for deployment.  My logic:

  • While I’m experienced with AWS, Azure is mostly an unknown world to me.  Given we’re running Windows servers with SQL Server, why not go native.
  • I really want to give SQL Azure a spin.
  • The portal for Azure is much nicer than AWS.  They have those stupid panels in places1 but mostly it makes logical sense.
  • Esri has Cloud Builder to simplify installation which I though would be great for starting up prototypes quickly.

So logical, no?  Well late yesterday this tweet went out by me.

I was stuck here:

You can literally hear the sad trombone sound.  Now Sam Libby was helping troubleshoot but things were still a bit weird.  Basically as you can see in the error above, I needed to accept an EULA.  Now of course I went into the the Azure Marketplace and followed the instructions to allow the Esri VM to be deployed programmatically which is what Cloud Builder requires.  But each time it errored out the same way.

Sam offered this:

Basically he hit upon it.  Microsoft did something with the marketplace and for whatever reason the Cloud Builder app won’t install an Esri ArcGIS for Server VM until you actually install it first yourself.

The workaround to get the Cloud Builder app to run is actually just create a VM using the Azure Portal then delete it.

After that, the Esri Cloud Builder app runs perfectly without trouble.

Philip Heede basically confirms everything.

So the ArcGIS for Server Cloud Builder2 works great.  While I don’t like wizards in general, it automates the processes that take time and let’s you focus on the settings for ArcGIS for Server you want to change.  I honestly haven’t installed ArcGIS for Server since it was ArcGIS Server (without the for) 9.3.1 and it was interesting to see how things have changed and how little has actually changed.

  1. Is that what they’re called? 

  2. Seriously, why no “for” in the title, consistency folks! 

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ArcGIS Server Revisited

Legacy GIS System

We were talking this weekend about how much serving up GIS data has changed in the past 3 years.  GIS Server used to be so important to many of my friends companies to the point they spent tens of thousands of dollars on it a year.  But no longer, each one said that they stopped paying for server because they all use other options.  Now before I go on, I want to say this isn’t about sales data of Esri products.  It’s more about changes in how people are sharing spatial data.  Feel free to replace ArcGIS Server with your favorite GIS server package (Title is a bit of SEO, right?  Heck I’m not even talking about ArcGIS Server in this post).

I gave a talk years ago about something we did at the GNOCDC mapping recovery from Hurricane Katrina.  You can see the slide deck here and watch the video here.  Basically it was the seeds of what we are going through right now.  It wasn’t that what we were doing back there was very unique, it was just a realization that GIS can’t be hosting “enterprise” data in a “workgroup” environment.  Just like Katrina basically broke the GNOCDC GIS servers, it has become clear that there is almost no way for an organization to use classic GIS servers without putting a lot of load balancing and networking decisions in front of them.

For most companies this is just way too much infrastructure and licensing costs.  We’ve seen the rise of CartoDB, Mapbox and ArcGIS Online (or whatever it is called these days).  Each has pluses and minuses and while there is overlap, they all do things unique to themselves.  But what the big attraction for each is that you don’t have to manage the constellation yourself.

The biggest drawback each said was the unknown in licensing.  Most hosted GIS plans are costed in ways that GIS people aren’t familiar with.  Mapviews?  Nobody has analytics on that until you put it in these services.  100,000 map views sounds huge doesn’t it?  But how do you really know?  Service credits?  We’ve wondered what that even means for years.  But I’d wager beers that even with the unknown, you’ll still save money over your ArcGIS Server license or other maintenance you pay for hosting your own GIS server.

We’re at a crossroads here.  People have begun to start realizing standing up ArcGIS Server, Geoserver or other map servers makes little to no sense in the new marketplace.  Paying for hosting maps is cheaper in the long run, has more availability and is easier to use that classic self hosted mapping solutions.  ArcGIS Online for all it’s confusion is beginning to be leveraged by users and everyone I knew at the Esri UC knows what CartoDB and Mapbox do.  Back in the old days of WeoGeo, we had to prove what we know now every day.  The cost of “doing it yourself” is magnitudes higher than paying for hosting.

Tide is changing…

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ArcGIS Server Utility Classes GotDotNet Workspace Project

Link – ArcGIS Server Utility Classes: Workspace Home

One thing I’ve been meaning to do is set up a GotDotNet workspace for ArcGIS Server utility classes. The workspace is up, and I threw up a project containing SOC (Server Object Container) COM utility classes. This is not entirely generic, and it’s currently namespaced as “Sanborn.Utilities.ArcGIS.Server.SOC” (Any ideas on namespaces?? OpenESRI.Blah.Blah?) but it’s a start. It’s also VB.NET if that matters. Without further ado…

Good for someone to step up and actually start up one of these development projects. We’ve been talking about it for months and Dave Bouwman has created one and populated it with some ArcGIS utility classes. I’ll be back in the office on Thursday so you can be sure that I’ll be taking a look at this. Our little shop has been more of an ArcIMS developer than ArcGIS Server, but we’ve been beginning to start programming with ArcGIS Server. As soon as we finish up this little Map Objects project, I really want to get into ArcGIS Server.

ESRI really should be providing this service to us GIS programmers, but it sounds like Brian is on it so hopefully this ArcGIS Server effort can drive the move to a shared development environment to replace ArcScripts. The best way to move this forward is to participate and show ESRI how valuable this can be.

Categories
Thoughts

ArcGIS Server Utility Classes GotDotNet Workspace Project

Link – ArcGIS Server Utility Classes: Workspace Home

One thing I’ve been meaning to do is set up a GotDotNet workspace for ArcGIS Server utility classes. The workspace is up, and I threw up a project containing SOC (Server Object Container) COM utility classes. This is not entirely generic, and it’s currently namespaced as “Sanborn.Utilities.ArcGIS.Server.SOC” (Any ideas on namespaces?? OpenESRI.Blah.Blah?) but it’s a start. It’s also VB.NET if that matters. Without further ado…

Good for someone to step up and actually start up one of these development projects. We’ve been talking about it for months and Dave Bouwman has created one and populated it with some ArcGIS utility classes. I’ll be back in the office on Thursday so you can be sure that I’ll be taking a look at this. Our little shop has been more of an ArcIMS developer than ArcGIS Server, but we’ve been beginning to start programming with ArcGIS Server. As soon as we finish up this little Map Objects project, I really want to get into ArcGIS Server.

ESRI really should be providing this service to us GIS programmers, but it sounds like Brian is on it so hopefully this ArcGIS Server effort can drive the move to a shared development environment to replace ArcScripts. The best way to move this forward is to participate and show ESRI how valuable this can be.

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The Road Ahead — ArcIMS and the ArcGIS Server

I was really interesting in learning about the changes and improvements to ArcGIS Server and ArcIMS with 9.2. Personally I’ve been a huge user of ArcIMS, but with the improvements to ArcGIS Server I’m looking at migrating our applications to it. Some plans for Server GIS ESRI is going to have free client apps such as ArcExplorer, improved developer tools (integrated tools for .NET and Java), integration of ArcIMS and ArcGIS with a common Application Development Framework (ADF), improved administration tools and support for standards.

With 9.2 ArcExplorer returns and many people I’ve talked to during the conference are excited about it. ArcExplorer is both a lightweight windows app and a browser based web app. No development is needed and they will support ArcGIS Server, ArcIMS and OGC. It supports both Map and Globe visualization so you’ll be able to publish your maps easily and to many desperate people. ArcReader has worked really well with publishing maps, but you need to have a PMF document. With ArcExplorer you can just connect to your GIS server (even embedded in your websites). The GUI for ArcExplorer is very simple and I think users will enjoy using it to view your maps. Novice users will be able to navigate your maps, but there is tons of functionality that more advanced users can take advantage of. The ArcExplorer web client takes advantage of some nice DHTML including seamless AJAX panning and some really slick map tips. The panning is so slick that you don’t have to wait for your map tiles to appear like you see with the Google Maps interface.

ArcIMS 9.2 is going to be a huge update from 9.1. ArcIMS 9.2 can publish to ArcExplorer web as well integration into standard IDE (Visual Studio.NET or Eclipse). As I said above, ArcExplorer Web is a huge leap from previous ESRI interfaces and even novice ArcIMS users can create maps that have really nice features such as map tips with ease. Yesterday I talked about the IDE integration so I won’t go over it here. The ArcIMS Designer is much improved with a .NET application that gives you a very simple interface to create your ArcExplorer Web applications. As with all 9.2 applications improved documentation should help all users get more out of their Arc applications. Art Haddad’s demo of the Web Application Designer has a Microsoft Office look and feel to it so you’ll feel very comfortable (drop down lists and wizards are everywhere). You can forget about those old Java designer, author and administrator apps! Programmers can also take these web applications you create in designer right into your IDE. ArcIMS continues to support Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Mapping Service (WMS), Web Feature Service (WFS) and Catalog Service for Web (CSW). ESRI will also start supporting Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD).

The great new news with ArcGIS Server (and ArcIMS also) is the ADF. This should allow programmers to move between the two servers quickly and easily. As was said yesterday and above, integration in to the IDEs will make all programmers happy because it will simplify our workflows. Server now supports GeoProcessing and Globe Publishing. The demo on publishing an ArcGlobe service showed how easy it was to publish a Globe service. With Google Earth grabbing everyone’s attention creating this simple 3D views is going to be important to may users. The ability to serve 3D services on the internet will enable users to share some really powerful maps with many users and the speed at which ArcGIS Server serves them up will make their experience of these 3D views an enjoyable experience.

The ArcGIS map service allows you to publish very high quality maps with support for identify, find, select, query and other tools. These are pre-rendered and cached at multiple resolutions. Support for serving both static and dynamic data is also included. The demo showing panning around the world was so smooth that you’d never think that you were in a web application (thanks to some really impressive AJAX). Geocoding performace has improved by a factor of 4 over 9.1. They support both batch and single geocoding as well as reverse geocoding. You can use either shapefiles or Geodatabases.

The new Geodata Publishing allows you to browse, query, extract and replicate data. Support data exchange using XML, Geodatabase and other formats. The demo of checking out data from an ArcGIS Server app showed checking out data from a map view into a Personal Geodatabase. Then they added it to ArcMap and edited the downloaded data layers. Then they stopped editing and saved and the changes. With ArcMap you can then save only change changes into a Geodatabase. This database was then uploaded via that same web application and the changes were then reflected on the web. The process was very simple and I could this being very useful for enterprise users.

GeoProcessing is now available in ArcGIS Server so you can take your models that you’ve build in ArcMap/Catalog and allow your web users run these models. The demo showed a web application that allowed you to select an area, choose what layer you want to download, save a file (shapefile/geodatabase/other) and then pick the projection. This application ran a model that took the input parameters that were selected on the web page and hen passed them to the pre-built mode. Interoperability with ArcGIS now supports WMS Services, SML, KML (so you can serve to Google Earth) and others.

The ArcGIS Server for .NET ADF changes allows you to create some really nice looking is web controls. You can point at multiple services and put them in your map control. Better navication, find, and map tips as well as some web templates for ArcExplorer Web and Network Analysis. There are some new Javascript, Table of Contents and AJAX. There is a new optimized object model in Javascript (no longer trying to figure out those scripts) and AJAX web controls. The new designer in Visual Studio.NET gives you some really nice visual tools for customizing your web applications. Rather than creating many of the same tools (such as TOC, identify) yourself, you can almost drag an drop them into your web form.

The new features in ArcGIS Server for Java include many of the new changes that were outlined for .NET developers and better UNIX install and security. ArcExplorer Web Java Edition includes all the functions of ArcExplorer Web. You now have a pure Java API (ArcObjects are now Java), out of the box spatial Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs), support for all standard IDE’s and tight integration with Eclipse and SunCreator. The IDE integration is as slick as the .NET IDE integration. The Java tools are all cross platform compatible so you’ll be able to administer on any operating system.

The changes in ArcGIS Server and ArcIMS will really enable developers to push the envelope on their web applications. Many of the complaints developers have had in the past have been addressed and many of the new tools will greatly simplify our workflows.

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Keyur Shah Talks about ArcGIS Server 9.2 and Java

Keyur Shah teases us with some great information (dead link) about ArcGIS Server 9.2. I was already planning to go to the Technical Workshop ArcGIS Road Ahead: What’s Coming for GIS Developers at 9.2 and it sounds like it will be very compelling.

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Jithen Singh to Present ArcGIS Server Implementation at ESRI UC

Link: ArcGIS Server User Conference Presentation

This year at the user conference, we will be doing a presentation on our recently completed project for New Zealand Post (http://www.nzpost.co.nz). Was a full ArcGIS Server implementation with ArcSDE and Oracle backend. We put in alot of hard work in getting this project completed in the time frame, but the end result was amazing.

GIS Case Studies and Best Practices: New Zealand Post Enhancing Postal Address Quality Through Spatial Technology

Thursday, July 28 3:30pm 5:00pm Marina Salon G, Marriott Hotel, Level 3, South Tower”

Sounds interesting, I’ll try to go.