ESRI EMEA Conference
Last week we attended and exhibited at the ESRI EMEA Conference in London (organized by ESRI UK). The weather was great, everything went smoothly, and I even found some time to catch a few presentations. For the Wednesday night party attendees had the run of the impressive Science Museum, which proved to be a memorable event. I found that the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre had an unexpectedly fragmented feel (everything was spread over several floors), though I think ESRI UK did the best they could with the venue. The location made up for this; right by the Houses of Parliament and across the street from Westminster Abbey.
The teams had both the Geocortex Optimizer 1.0 Beta and the Geocortex Essentials 1.5 Beta 1 (Beta 2 is out today) ready for the conference, and Steve Maddison and I got to be the first to kick the tires while previewing these new versions for business partners and attendees.
The 2008 ESRI Southwest Users Group Conference
Laramie, WY October 22-24, 2008
For the last six years, Latitude Geographics has attended every Southwest Users Group (SWUG) conference. From Jackson Hole in 2003 through to Laramie in 2008, the SWUG conference brings together GIS users from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. This year’s high plains geospatial roundup offered up blowing snow and chilly temperatures – a big departure for a guy like me accustomed to Victoria’s moderate climate. But the warmth of the SWUG organizers (kudos to the entire organizing committee for an awesome job!) allowed the attendees to quickly forget about the cold temperatures, and settle into a dose (actually, many, many doses) of Wyoming hospitality!
The SWUG event is not your regular, regional GIS conference. John Calkins, ESRI’s “Corporate Technical Evangelist” kicked things off with an interactive keynote session that engaged the group in a geographic approach to problem solving. Plenty of great user and vendor presentations followed, topped off with an evening keynote by Wyoming historian Bruce Blevins. Aside from all the interesting work-related stuff, I’d have to say that the highlight of the conference was the BBQ, Bluegrass, and Broncs event (disclosure: we were also a sponsor). This was not my first rodeo - but it was undoubtedly one of the most unique I’ve seen. The University of Wyoming Rodeo Team put on a presentation just for us, and we got to enjoy steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing and bull-riding. Yee-Haw! Later in the evening, we two-stepped to music served up by the Zarks, a local country-western band. I reckon the user sessions were a little subdued the next morning, but attendees (AKA SWUG-uhs) seemed to be wearing a collective grin.
It’s events like these that make me appreciate the industry we work in, given its great mix of knowledge sharing, professionalism, and appreciation for local cultural activities!
Introducing Geocortex to Latin America
I just returned from the 2008 Latin American User Conference in Santiago, Chile. It was a great trip and an excellent event. ESRI Chile hosted a well-organized conference, the attendees were very focused and interested, and everyone was very welcoming. Most of the ESRI Distributors I met seemed very progressive, and there appears to be lots of good work going on in the region with ESRI technology.
My Spanish proved even less effective than anticipated. I quickly realized the most pragmatic way to manage expectations around my language abilities was to simply claim to have no knowledge whatsoever. This meant that having Fernando of ESIMEX there with me was of immense additional value, and aside from translating my presentation on Friday to a standing room only audience (which wouldn't have happened if I'd presented in English), he delivered numerous demos and was able to answer questions about who we are and what we do.
There seemed to be considerable interest in our technology. Unfortunately, for the first time ever at a conference, we ran out of both Spanish and English marketing materials on day three (despite having, as always, 50% more than we thought we’d require based on the number of attendees). We had a hard time getting more printed locally on short notice.
Prior to the conference, I took a few days to tour the region. This included a long, steep hike in a national park that left me limping and wincing through the first two days of the conference.
Post-San Diego Commentary
I intended to blog once or twice during the ESRI International User Conference, but found my conference schedule and meetings all-consuming. This was our seventh time exhibiting at the conference, and I think it was the best one yet. ArcGIS Server 9.3 is what we hoped it would be, the new/emerging developer APIs are valuable, and I generally think ESRI is on the right track. I’m excited about the coming year.
Since it was first released, I’ve been very candid about my perspective on ArcGIS Server 9.2 (that it was the future but not quite ready for prime-time). This has caused consternation among some, but I always defended my position because our customers count on us for advice about technology and timing.
I’ve always contended that, regardless of new capabilities, the majority of ESRI customers will be reluctant to move from ArcIMS to ArcGIS Server until the shift doesn’t involve any significant steps backward from ArcIMS. There have been two main aspects to this; comparable performance and comparable functionality.
I think I can now see the tipping point. Aside from the general improvements in 9.3, during the plenary on Monday afternoon, ESRI announced that the new rendering engine for ArcGIS Server (which everyone was expecting as part of 9.4) would ship as part of ArcGIS Server 9.3 Service Pack 2 in January or February 2009. Even though you can actually do lots to improve performance (Mapservice/application tweaking and pre-rendering), this is big news for organizations that have been awaiting improved performance that doesn’t require much rearranging of the furniture.
As for the latter aspect (functional parity), the complementary use of Web ADF and the new developer API’s allow/will allow functionality, ease-of-development, and ease-of-use to be taken to the next level. We’ve been working hard over the last twenty months to be prepared with comparable and/or superior functionality (relative to ArcIMS-gen technology) in time for ESRI’s release of comparable performance. And we’re nearly there.
Bottom line… things are falling into place. Last year, we talked mostly with people who wanted to learn more about ArcGIS Server. This year, we talked mostly with people serious about getting going with ArcGIS Server. I predict 2009 will be remembered as being a significant year in the widespread transition from ArcIMS to ArcGIS Server.