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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