Best in Breed, Cringeworthy, Pro is the Future, GeoLounge…AppGeo Project Manager’s Takeaways from the Esri User Conference

AppGeo’s staff participation in the Esri User Conference (Esri UC) dates back to 1991 when it was an intimate show in Palm Springs. This year, AppGeo sent two staffers, Project Manager David Breeding and Senior Consultant Andy Buck, to the Esri UC held last week in San Diego. Attending the Esri UC is a part of our commitment to our customers to stay up to date on all of the technologies that can help address their needs. We’re happy to share the insights and ideas David and Andy brought back from the conference to their colleagues and our current and future clients. We offer David’s reflections in this blog post.

Before Heading Out

David Breeding at the 2015 Esri UCThis is my second Esri UC. I previously attended in 2011 as a student attendee.

In my role at AppGeo, I regularly use ArcGIS for Desktop and ArcGIS for Server to create both hard copy and web mapping resources/services.  My role has  expanded more recently to the management of versioned and distributed databases.

I’m most interested in the tools being made available to municipal users that have full Enterprise License Agreements and ArcGIS Online access. Esri has been been doing its best to make things really “easy” for this group over the past year.

The heart of an Esri municipal GISer’s infrastructure is very often an Enterprise geodatabase. I also expect to return with a greater understanding of how this core piece of infrastructure is configured and managed, such as reducing the risk of exposing data and editing permissions to those both inside and outside their networks.

Attending the UC will  help me stay on top of the best practices so I can help users grow their spatial capacity.


Selected Observations from inside the Esri UC


I was excited to see the dynamic 3D tools and represtations in action.  While CityEngine is still very much in development, the feature rollout schedule appears to be on a fast track. Further, Esri offers an impressive display of curated 3D data, making implementation and use of 3D both realistic and exciting.

Application Overload

The App Dating Game component of the plenary session (video) was cringeworthy and distracted from its goal of describing the core apps in Esri’s portfolio.  I hope those Esri employees got professional hazard pay for their participation.  More seriously, the sheer number and variety of out the box applications available to users is impressive.

Enterprise Geodatabases

Enterprise geodatabases (those built on SQL Server, Oracle, or PostgreSQL) are the best in breed when it comes to robust distributed geospatial data management.  Full Stop.

Esri understands the needs of GIS administrators to provide data to users via the web and for disconnected workflows. The company has built a robust set of tools that allow non-DBA’s to do a large majority of the database management functions from ArcCatalog. The catch is that the whole Esri stack is required to deliver all these great features, which can be expensive.

Celebrating Applied Geography at Esri UCOn the topic of cost, Esri is increasingly more comfortable with recommending users move infrastructure to Virtual Machines and the Cloud, which can reduce the hardware side of the cost equation, but there are still some caveats when considering moving all Esri infrastructure to the cloud.

Streaming Services

ArcGIS Server (at 10.3) can now efficiently render streaming location feeds using HTML 5 and WebSocket technologies. This lowers the server overhead for streaming content and enables better user experiences and application performance. The GeoEvent extension for Server, which is not included in the Packaged Enterprise License Agreement for local Government Enterprise License Agreements, is required. Many of our clients are in the early stages of exploring resource tracking (tracking vehicles, for example) and this solution makes publishing streaming services very easy.  It would be great if this extension was more available to our clients.

ArcGIS Portal Deployment

Portal for ArcGIS is now freely available to users with ArcGIS Server 10.3. This is good news for GIS managers who are concerned about security. With a locally hosted portal, no map services need be exposed publicly to ArcGIS online in order to empower municipal departmental GIS users.  I see this as particularly advantageous for local emergency managers and public safety officials.

Silverlight and Web Apps

Silverlight is dead and HTML 5 is the application development framework going forward.  We should all rejoice.  HTML 5 has the potential to make application enhancement and extension more straight forward for our developers. A new Javascript API (4.0) with improved 3D data support and other map rendering enhancements and the ArcRest Python package will also be valuable in meeting client needs.

ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro is on display everywhere and the message I’m getting is we should all start getting used to it.  The 64-bit architecture and iterative deployment over the coming year is encouraging for the eventual replacement of the now 16 year old ArcMap. Pro is the future for Esri.

The interface and tool locations are all different, but the philosophy guiding development is that no tool should be more than 3 clicks away, with the most common tools front and center.  All demos on the exhibitor floor were done in Pro. From what I saw things looked pretty slick, which is much different than my beta testing experience of Pro.  However, all the features of ArcMap aren’t in Pro yet. Users that try and transition now might be frustrated by missing functionality. I wish there was a document identifying which workflows and tools are/aren’t yet supported in Pro.

During the plenary session two young girls from Hawaii (sisters) presented using Pro. After a demo/user fail of Pro (that was resolved live), an unscripted conversation between Jack Dangermond and the girls brought out the fact that the two girls were required to learn Pro the week before the conference.  The younger sister said something like “Pro was really easy learn and should only take users two to three days to pick it up.”  This brought out a collective chuckle from the crowd.  We should all be prepared for the learning curve, but hopefully Esri has learned from its years of ArcMap development.

Pro Tip for Those Attending Next Year

The place to watch the plenary session is from the bean bag chairs in the GeoLounge.  However, get there early because the Lounge fills up quickly. And do not miss the great food truck that parks daily behind the conference center around lunchtime.