Andy Buck, Senior Consultant, Takeaways from the 2015 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 2015 Esri international User Conference 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 offer Andy’s reflections in this post.

A Smarter PlacePerspective Before Heading Out:

This was my first Esri User Conference, ever.

Attending the UC felt a bit like a right of passage, for me. I’ve been in IT since the early ’80s and in GIS since 2002, enough time to integrate my decades of non-spatial business systems, database design and management, and process development experience into the geospatial sphere.

In my AppGeo role I help define data and process workflows for our clients. Lately, we have been doing a lot of CAD-GIS Interoperability work. We regularly use Esri’s multi-user, multi-version, enterprise geodatabases and ArcGIS Server for map and geoprocessing services. We also use a variety of other technologies including Bentley’s CAD tools and Safe Software’s FME.  My aim for the week was to  learn about the latest developments in the Esri technologies that I use, fill in some technical holes in my bag of tricks, to learn some new concepts, and identify Esri resources that are available once I get back home.

Selected Observations from inside the Esri UC:

The buzz – ArcGIS Pro, 3D and Web, Web, Web

Across the conference schedule, it was clear what the Esri messaging is: It’s ArcGIS Pro, 3D and the Web Web Web.  Underneath the packaging, it seems clear that the 64-bit ArcGIS Pro will replace ArcMap (aka ArcGIS Desktop).  For now, Esri remains committed to ArcMap for some unannounced number of few versions, but all the good stuff, like 3D, is going into Pro.

Enterprise Geodatabases

  1. Name change? – I got the feeling that the name SDE is being deprecated in favor of Enterprise Geodatabases
  2. The command line still is available BUT it seems to be deemphasized. Alternatively, administration functions are available as tools, which can be stitched together in Python or Model Builder, or via the new GUI interface in ArcMap and Catalog.
  3. Mind your bits – Desktop, Catalog, and Engine are both 32 bit, but Server and Pro are 64 bit.  Make sure that you have the database client that matches the bit architecture that you require. In this transition phase, we’ll all have to be more careful.

True confession

I’m a projection groupie. I was really happy to attend a couple of sessions given by Margaret Maher. She is THE Esri expert on projections. She wrote the book (Lining Up Data in ArcGIS), I bought a copy and had her sign it.

CAD-GIS Interoperability

Listening to Margaret explain the idealized Esri import workflows for less-than-ideal CAD data was the highlight of the trip.  She also had a session on lining up CAD data in GIS. Good stuff. I would say the week confirmed for me that Esri has a mature platform that has good resources for integrating CAD workflows.

Living in a Hybrid World

My questions about the evolution of the industry weren’t discussed directly. There was talk about openness, but that was mostly about being able to import various technologies into the Esri ecosystem. I would have liked a little more discussion of how Esri’s technology can co-exist with the alternatives. It is definitely a reality for our customers. Their needs often require a combination of technologies – selecting the right tool or combination of tools for the job is one of things we work hard on to save our customers time and money.

Warning: Your Mileage May Vary

In one session the Esri speaker mentioned a LiDAR application that needed to make 300 billion calculations to process the data. ArcGIS Server on a 16-node cluster completed the task in ten minutes!  Later, I had another Esri person help me determine that the license cost for that architecture would be something like $360K. Ouch!

Overall Experience

The conference is filled with talented Esri technical people really trying to help customers work better. It is great to be able to take the time away from the office to stitch some themes together in a fun environment that allows for all the information to percolate.