2008 ESRI Developer Summit Plenary by James Fee

Note: This article was written by James Fee and pubished in his website.

Jim McKinney opened the Plenary by introducing Jack Dangermond to welcome everyone to the DevSummit. The DevSummit has gotten much bigger over the last 3 years. It had more than doubled since the first DevSummit. The conference has changed from previous years. It is a longer a conference than before (pre-conference seminars). More sessions than before, presentations will be recorded and put up on EDN, larger community center and ESRI showcase (the server island was described as a continent). ESRI has also added the demo theaters to the showcase to augment the tech sessions. It definitely feels much larger than before. On top of it all, the plenary is much shorter (only 2 hours) than before so everyone can get right into tech sessions.

ESRI has committed to releasing service packs every quarter for 9.2. The future includes SP5 for 9.2 out soon and 9.3 in “June” (or before the User Conference) and 9.4 should arrive in “early” 2009.

ArcGIS Server

Ismael Chivite, the ArcGIS Server product manager, lead the talk on ArcGIS Server. The tag line that ESRI has been using is “Making GIS Knowledge Available To Anyone…”. This aligns with what was send at the FedUC and the BPC. Putting GIS into consumer clients (Google Maps, Google Earth, Virtual Earth) is clearly a huge change for ESRI. ArcGIS Server 9.3 performance is improved because of improved caching workflows (partial cache and on demand cache). This means you don’t need to create map tiles for the world, but pick areas you feel are important. The areas that are not tiled, can be created on demand as users view the world. The “simple” javascript API will speed development over “traditional” .NET or Java ADFs. Security can now be managed from within the Server Manager on each service. Much like the ArcGIS Explorer resource center that everyone can see, there will be a detailed ArcGIS Server 9.3 resource center (only available for Beta users at this point) that will aggregate the documentation and other documents in one place. ESRI is committed to delivering more code samples and web tasks for developers to use. (I can confirm that there are more samples available than I’ve ever seen for an ESRI release)

Web ADFs (.NET and Java)

Rex Hansen demonstrated how you can quickly take code samples out of the Resource Center and create WebADF and ASP.NET AJAX applications quickly and easily. The sample Rex demonstrated was simple and valuable which is definitely something that has been missing on ESRI samples from before. Rex showed how you can quickly take the ESRI sample and create a Sharepoint Web part using your own data. Hopefully this will improve usability of creating quick WebADF applications that leverage Microsoft development tools.

Rex apparently lost his mind and started talking about Java and AGS 9.3. The Java example was very similar in the sense that the code was simple and any Java developer should be able to customize it to work with their own data and projects. Rex looked pretty familiar with Eclipse so maybe he’s been cheating on us .NET folks.

Javascript API

The ArcGIS Javascript API is probably the biggest new feature of ArcGIS Server at 9.3. Now instead of being limited to .NET or Java, you can now pick a simple Javascript API to publish to ESRI’s Javascript API, or Virtual Earth and Google Maps.

Jeremy Bartley demonstrated the new Javascript API by visiting the Javascript API section of the ArcGIS Resource Center. Javascript API resource center allows you to interactively explore the API. Much like how Google has described the Google Maps API, ESRI has really taken the time to explain their Javascript API (Now I’m sure it isn’t as detailed at Google’s Docs, but the change from previous ESRI documentation is very noticeable.) The Javascript API reference is clean and easy to use and there are even plans for a “community” section where developers will be able to upload their own code or tricks that they have for the Javascript API (this will also be available for the .NET and Java sections as well). The speed that you can add ArcGIS Server services to your maps is just slick. One line of Javascript code and a url to the service and you are running. Many have already browsed the Services Explorer on the demos that ESRI has posted and have been able to see the capabilities of the service.

Jeremy also demonstrated the Google Maps and Virtual Earth extenders. Seeing ArcGIS Server being leveraged in Google Maps really gives developers the ability to take classic GIS analysis and put it in a context that “ordinary” users can work with. I will say when Jeremy was done, the crowd really gave ESRI a good cheer. I think that proves that this Javascript API is going to be used quite a bit moving forward. One point about the Javascript API’s is that no development or deployment license is required on the Web server hosting your application.

ArcGIS Mobile

Developers I’ve talked with this week have really been interested in what ESRI has been doing with ESRI Mobile solutions. What is interesting at 9.3 is that ESRI includes ArcSDE SQL Express with ArcGIS Engine. You can do both one and two way replication with ArcGIS Server. ArcGIS Mobile integrates deeply with Visual Studio and enables quick development and deployment. Being able to develop a mobile application on Windows Mobile and Smartphone with a couple lines of code should increase Mobile usage among ESRI Developers.

ArcGIS Desktop/Engine

Euan Cameron talked about changes to ArcGIS Engine 9.3. The biggest news I think was the ability to include SQL Server Express Support with deployments. At 9.3 ESRI increased the amount of documentation and code. Desktop now allows the ability to have “Z Aware” editing, HTML popup windows (like what you are seeing with ArcGIS Explorer), more online support content and VBA 6.5 (thus Vista and Office integration).

Bernie Szukalski started to demo some 9.3 enhancements (the new “left hand tool”), and ArcGIS Desktop 9.3 crashed. We got to see the error detection and debugging tools. Crash dumps created automatically and ESRI will use these to help track down crashes. This should result in Service Packs addressing problems quicker than before.

ArcGIS Explorer

Now ther real reason that Bernie Szukalski was up on stage (no he wasn’t there to crash ArcGIS Desktop) was to demonstrated ArcGIS Explorer The future releases of ArcGIS Explorer include 480 will be released in May and followed by releases 600 and 700 by the end of th year. Bernie was demonstrating how you can include ArcGIS Server Globe Services, ArcIMS Services, WMS Services, local imagery, file geodatabases and KML. The new icon symbols really look great and very sharp (and will be available with ArcGIS 9.3 Desktop for use in any ArcMap or ArcGIS Server production). Bernie even when to the Google 3D Warehouse to grab a KMZ of a 3D building. Bernie also demonstrated how you can even embed YouTube videos right into the info bubbles. Any HTML content can be used, there is no limits so you can put any web content into ArcGIS Explorer.

ArcGIS Explorer 480 will increase performance (multi-threaded), Direct Connect to SDE!!!!!, GPX support, GeoRSS, improved task framework and popups and ability to load AGX in your web browser. The future moving forward includes a new user interface, integrated 2D and 3D display, markup and collaboration and a Map Control to embed Explorer objects. You’ll be able to take the map display and use it in your applications.

ESRI demonstrated build 600 (which isn’t the next version) and it has the new “ribbon” interface that you’ll recognize from Microsoft Office. Now tasks aren’t hidden in the table of contents, but available quickly and easily. It really does look like a Microsoft Office application which should help with its adoption. The usability of build 600 is really striking compared to the existing ArcGIS Explorer builds and even Google Earth. Another key feature of build 600 is the ability to view maps in 2D. The enhanced Explorer SDK which will be available with either build 600 or 700. Embedding AGX inside your applications will be big for many developers.

Lastly Scott Morehouse discussed where the ArcGIS Platform is going. ESRI is at the “envisioning” stage with 9.4 so the User Conference will be where we’ll see what will be part of the release. It will build upon what happened in 9.2 and 9.3 so it shouldn’t rock the boat and will probably be a nice stable release. The release schedule of ArcGIS Explorer will be adopted by the Server and Desktop teams so we’ll be seeing more and quicker releases of software, rather than these big Service Packs and large jumps in technology we have been getting. There will be more support for standards, much improved Linux support, faster services in ArcGIS Server and more stability. 9.4 will also see Flex and Silverlight be part of the Server platform. Desktop will continue to be improved with stability/performance and new editing tools showing up. ArcGIS Online is now an integral part of ArcGIS and is not a separate product. More online documentation, best practices and code galleries will also begin to show up with 9.3 and on to 9.4.

Jim Barry described where EDN was heading including more blogs coming online in the next few months (Desktop Developer and Engine) as well as highlighting some of the improved online support tools at 9.3. Also the forums are being updated as part of the 9.3 beta program and when 9.3 is released, will replace the old forums that have existed for years.

That ended the plenary and we will move on to the “super sessions”.

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