Over the last few months we’ve learned a lot more about the new roadmap being pursued by Esri.
Times are a’changing and the technology is headed down some new and exciting paths as we have seen the first release of ArcGIS Pro, new releases of ArcGIS Server, and continued releases of ArcGIS Online.
The demos are flashy, the concepts are cool, and the focus has all been on ‘what’s new’. Esri even wrote a guest blog post for SSP last month on a Utility’s Shortlist to ArcGIS Pro which is well worth a read if you haven’t checked it out yet.
But with all that said, the most common questions we are hearing from our customers are “how does this affect me?“, “will this work with my data?“, and “what can I do with this technology today?“
All very good questions…
Just about every customer we work with today utilizes an Esri enterprise geodatabase hosted in Oracle or SQL Server, some version of ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap, ArcCatalog), and most are utilizing Schneider Electric’s product lines including ArcFM™, Designer™, Responder™, Fiber Manager™, etc.
Our customers use Esri versioning to manage transactional changes to their GIS data and typically make use of one or more Esri geometric networks to manage their electric, gas, water, or telecom based data.
If you fall into any of these categories, the new roadmap will definitely impact you with some exciting and powerful changes.
HOWEVER, while you are undoubtebly catching on to all the hype around the new software releases, it’s important to understand where your focus should be today and how your personal roadmap should look.
We write almost every month on how you can utilize ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online with your existing enterprise GIS, so I am hoping we’re covered on that front – it’s absolutely doable!
For more info be sure to read some of our posts from past months. ArcGIS Pro can natively read our current enterprise geodatabases and can be used to perform analysis and visualization based on that source data.
However, ArcGIS Pro is not designed to edit against our ArcFM™ geodatabases or our geometric networks today. Instead, Esri is working on a new model for facility networks, which will be natively managed via ArcGIS Pro upon its release.
The initial release of the facility network is expected late this year or possibly early next year. You have seen the cool editing demos performed in ArcGIS Pro today.
You should still get excited… but temper that excitement with an understanding that it will take some time for the facility network to mature and for best practices around upgrading to the facility network to be finalized.
So where should your focus be in the near future to the next few years?
The answer is three-fold, and you should be getting this same story from Esri and any other business partner in the space (if you’re not, please let us know). As a community, we all need to work together to ensure this message is communicated clearly!
- Upgrade your ArcGIS Desktop and Geodatabase versions to v10.2.1 – don’t put this off, do it now! Almost a year ago, Jack Dangermond wrote an email to all utility and telecom customers stating that 10.2.1 would be the dedicated utility and telecom release for fixes and patches, which allows Esri to provide the best possible support with the least impact to your business. Basically, Esri is going to hold 10.2.1 as the target version for all important updates related to ArcGIS Desktop for utility and telco customers until we have an upgrade path to the facility network. So if you are at a version prior to 10.2.1 and are holding off on an upgrade due to a hope that ArcGIS Pro will be ready in the short term, SSP and Esri strongly advise you to upgrade now. It’s too far down the road.Esri ArcGIS Desktop 10.2.1 has proven to be a solid release with significant improvements to performance, conflict management and many other aspects of the software. And we’ve seen the Schneider Electric 10.2.1 stabilize with 10.2.1a along with key patches (10.2.1b to be released later this summer). By upgrading to 10.2.1, you will ensure you are on a fully supported version and will get all the key updates intended for the utility/telco community until we have all the details worked out for use of the facility network (hint – I don’t see this happening in the next two years).
Finally, to be extra clear, this recommendation to stay on 10.2.1 applies to your Geodatabase and ArcGIS Desktop software. You can absolutely continue to implement newer versions of ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Online, Portal for ArcGIS, mobile apps, etc. They will continue to be compatible with your back office 10.2.1 software.
- Implement a GIS Portal – when I say portal I am referencing either Esri’s hosted portal, a handy SAAS offering called ArcGIS Online, or a formal back-office installation of Portal for ArcGIS. Implementation of a portal will be your first step in engaging with the new Esri platform and it is 100% intended for and supported by your existing back office GIS. This will introduce the new concept of an Esri Named User to your organization, which is important because that’s where Esri is heading in the future with it’s identity methodology. And you’ll instantaeously be able to expose and utilize your GIS data in new and powerful patterns. There is plenty of reading on our site about platform and ArcGIS Online, but my recent article on taking GIS from a system to a platform covers my thoughts on the pattern that has brought success to many of our customers – expose, collect, & empower.The immediate follow-up question is whether you should implement ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS, and that topic deserves further discussion. Portal is effectively an installation of ArcGIS Online on-premise. It provides the same content management, authorization, branding, and consumption patterns as ArcGIS Online fully housed behind your firewall. That sounds great, but before you jump into a Portal project, be aware that the total cost of ownership is often significantly higher when installed on-premise. It’s a complicated project including new server hardware, version upgrades, and internal support requirements. To date, I have worked with almost every one of our clients that has engaged with the Esri platform to show them a way that they can securely use ArcGIS Online as their portal while keeping all of their data secure behind their firewall. We have a proven architecture and methodology and an excellent track record in working with IT departments to ensure they are covered in all aspects. Let us do the negotiating with your IT department and you’ll save yourself work both now (at implementation) and for years to come. Esri keeps ArcGIS Online up to date with quarterly releases that will continue to be compatible with your back office.
An important point about implementing portal is that it will act as a bridge to the facility network and ArcGIS Pro by being the common thread that ties it all together. So once again, if you’ve been holding off, now’s a great time to take a step forward in this area!
- Begin Using ArcGIS Pro – please don’t misunderstand my message in this post – I am not telling you to hold off on using ArcGIS Pro. Instead, I’m trying to clarify how you can use ArcGIS Pro today vs. where it will fit in the future. As noted above, you can absolutely use ArcGIS Pro today right alongside ArcMap for analysis, visualization, 3D, and content sharing. But ArcMap will continue to be your source for editing, tracing and other network management related activities. And how is ArcGIS Pro tied into the platform, you might ask? You might have guessed it already – via an Esri Named User and either ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS (which is why this is your third assignment).Your licensing for ArcGIS Pro is, in fact, tied directly to your named user account in your portal. You won’t find a license option for ArcGIS Pro in your concurrent license files where you manage your ArcGIS basic, standard, and advanced licenses today, so don’t bother looking. As a reminder, even if you aren’t using them today, you have been granted ArcGIS Online named users for every ArcGIS Desktop license you own today via Esri’s desktop entitlement program. And those named users can be assigned ArcGIS Pro licenses directly within ArcGIS Online. So check that out today.
Usage of ArcGIS Pro with your current GIS is a much larger topic, and we’ll begin digging into that in the coming months and years to provide you with the intel you need to begin making use of ArcGIS Pro today. By the time the facility network and ArcGIS Pro are ready for networked editing glory, you’ll be well versed in the basics and ready to embrace the technology to the fullest.
And that about wraps it up in a nutshell. You don’t need to knock out all three items tomorrow, but they should be on your near-term radar.
More specifically, they should be on your documented internal roadmap, so that when you are asked about your future plans, you have an educated, well-thought-out response!
If you have additional questions about these items, give us a shout – that’s what we’re here for. I’m hoping that this post will help us get past the confusion and back to focusing on finding new ways to make GIS transformational in our businesses and lives!