1 Q&A: Esri's Jack Dangermond on cloud, big data and Apple vs Google map wars The company today unveiled ArcGIS Online organizational subscriptions Sharon Machlis June 14, 2012 (Computerworld) GIS pioneer Jack Dangermond founded Esri in 1969 and has steered the company since the mainframe era. Today's announcement of ArcGIS Online organizational subscriptions marks what he calls Esri's evolution into the era of cloud and mobile computing. He talked about the importance of mobile and cloud, the role of GIS in organizations, big data and consumer vs. enterprise mapping. Tell me a little about today's announcement. This is rather transforming. When we started the company, we were on mainframes, we had a few dozen customers. When we went to minis, we went to a few thousand customers. When we went to Unix workstations, it went up an order of magnitude in use. When we went to PCs, we achieved a million user community. With each of those steps, it was usability, it was a new architecture, it was cheaper. In our view this is another evolutionary step. But, frankly, this new platform we see as not just one order of magnitude but multiple orders of magnitude of growth for our technology. We've had this technology in beta for about six months and we're getting very, very, very positive feedback on it. In the open cloud version of it, we call that ArcGIS Online. It is a complete SaaS implementation and it is being offered with a new business model. Esri, like Microsoft and Oracle, has traditionally been a software company. This new platform introduces a subscription model for the use of our SaaS offering, ArcGIS online. So it's a shift for us, both in the technology pattern but also in the business pattern. We don't see ArcGIS Online as affecting our traditional enterprise business software. We see it actually as very synergistic. It's similar in concept to what Microsoft is trying to do with their Windows 8 and Azure environment, software and services. But it jumps much more dramatically into this platform for core services environment. Who do you think will be using this? Is it going to be mostly GIS professionals or other technology savvy people who are not GIS professionals? It's definitely changing. First, it will be heavily used by GIS professionals, and we're seeing that already in organizations. There are large oil companies that are using it, there are also multiple federal agencies. There's the traditional customer profile. The Department of Interior is deploying it both in the various bureaus, but also as a new generation of an enterprise system which ties together all of their bureaus: USGS, Park Service, BoM and so on. They see this as a way to do a cloud first initiative for all their geospatial data for sharing of geographic information between and among their traditional GIS users. The other side of the coin is: 95% of the Department of Interior is not a GIS user directly. They always have to go down the hall and access their GIS specialist and get maps made or do 1/7
2 analytics. But what ArcGIS Online is doing, is it's providing access to the information, it's opening it up within the enterprise to the knowledge workers or people at the executive level. For example, [Deputy Secretary] David Hayes, who's really driving this initiative, said in the past, it took him weeks to be able to get geographic information out of the bureaus because of bureaucracy and technology and interaction. But now suddenly he can have intelligent Web maps that are organized in his group of ArcGIS Online and access those on demand. There are some subtle details of what's happening here that make this very exciting. First off, there's an open API for integration with other enterprise systems. And we're using that API to fully integrate, with close collaboration, with Microsoft, the entire Office suite. Excel is a legitimate client for ArcGIS Online's mapping services. I can open up Excel, I can add a toolbar from ArcGIS Online that allows me to make maps of any of my Excel data, by taking a tabular data set and simply associating it with ArcGIS Online. And if the table has in it some kind of geographic information like state name, city name or street address, it automatically geocodes the table and creates a map within Excel fed by the ArcGIS Online services easy as making a chart. Is the map showing up in ArcGIS Online or in Excel? In Excel. You're never leaving Excel. Exactly the same thing happens in PowerPoint. I'll be able to create a map in a browser and have it integrated into my PowerPoint presentation. The big thing here is that ArcGIS maps are dynamic, they're fed by dynamic services. So if I open up a PowerPoint map of California, inside of my PowerPoint I can pan and zoom and query these intelligent Web maps and information pops up about them in my PowerPoint presentation. That, I assume, is not aimed at the GIS professional but at the knowledge worker? Yes. First off, there are 750 million Excel users, so imagine being in Excel and being able to map Excel data anywhere in the world with a map as a service. That's a big new market. One way to describe it and here's a big sentence is that ArcGIS Online is a mapping platform, a new geospatial enterprise platform but especially focusing in on mapping. It has other services in there like geocoding services across the enterprise or spatial analysis services that can be deployed across the enterprise, but the basic thing that most people recognize it for is that it has really cool maps. So, think Google Maps but with authoritative source information behind it or one's own enterprise information shared in a cloud exclusively within the enterprise or deployed in the cloud, behind a firewall or not, that the enterprise information can be accessed and mapped by [non GIS] people [although] GIS people will be behind the deployment of some of the key data sets. People in my industry would be very interested in the geocoding. In the press, where are the crimes last night? Where are events occurring? We will have street geocoding for the entire world by the middle of July. We have a lot of it now, of course, in Europe and the U.S. but we'll have global geocoding, which will be one of the first. You can do it address by address with things like Google for consumer applications, but I'm talking about a professional enterprise system. Last year, we acquired a company called spoton. They integrate our server with Cognos. We also have a strong partnership with IBM on their Smarter Planet initiatives. So people doing BI in Cognos can connect to the ArcGIS Online platform in the open Web or in their own on premise system and do geocoding, make maps of their Cognos data, make maps of their market data, make maps of their event data... So it's a mapping solution for Cognos and it's a mapping solution for Office and it's a mapping solution also for Salesforce. (We don't actually own the 2/7
3 connector to Salesforce; it's with a business partner, but it works in exactly the same way.) There are three markets we look at: For the geospatial world, for sharing and consuming and collaboration around data. The second one is for what we call locational or geoanalytics. It's basically mapping in simple spatial analysis for BI like Cognos, like Sharepoint and like SAP's BI stack. So we have API integration with those basic BI vendors and we're looking for others, and others will come. So rather than people having to buy a lot of technology to do spatial BI or locational analytics in their BI platform, they can simply rent this as a service. And it comes with all the content and it comes with all the mapping tools and is very simple to deploy. It isn't like you have to do some kind of system integration. No, you open up spreadsheets and you make maps because there's an outof the box toolbox for Excel that just does it. The same with Cognos and the same with these other platforms. The third market is one that we'll call loosely Web developers. We're not Google maps or a few others like Bing maps they have simple mapping and services. We're kind of an alternative to that, but have stronger and richer APIs for developers. The cloud GIS or mapping platform is directed very specifically to attract the web developer who wants to put a map in their app, put a map in their Web site. One of the things I'm thinking about as you're talking is putting a map on your mobile device, and mobile application development. Are you targeting that as well? [ArcGIS Online supports three approaches.] This cloud platform supports traditional client server technology. One of our Windows desktops, like ArcGIS desktop, can view the services from this cloud environment. But we also support Web browsers we have APIs and viewer applications that allow people to view the content inside of that environment through browsers. They can update the content, they can upload the content, they can make maps with the browsers, etc. The third category of access point are mobile devices. We have very carefully engineered this so that we support ios, meaning ipad and iphone, and engineered APIs and viewers so that they work very well on the iphone and ipad. We've also engineered it to work extraordinarily well on Android devices, both the touch and the mobile device. We've also worked aggressively to support the Windows phone and Windows mobile environment. We support both of those environments nicely. That means we take advantage of the locational dimension with these devices like built in GPS. Not only are the maps accessible but also there's complete open APIs and open source toolkits for developers who want to build an enterprise application on a mobile device. You pick your device and it doesn't really matter to us which device. We're not Google trying to push Android, we're not Apple trying to push ios, we're not Microsoft. We support them ubiquitously, both this is an important detail at the HTML 5 level but also in native mode. So the developer can choose what they want to do to take advantage of the local device. I think we are the only company that has accomplished this kind of geospatial device platform ubiquity for any device. And it's not simply map viewing, it's not simply location based services. These viewers and these tool sets are designed for the enterprise. So they can take real time feeds, things like traffic or weather, or enterprise data sets like utility information. This launch is not a little thing for us. We've studied all the different dimensions of it from highend GIS users to the spatially enabled field workers of organizations. Here's a question I want to answer, I'll ask the question. Are we interested in the consumer 3/7
4 market because Google and Microsoft and Apple and a few others are warring it out there for maps on the mobile devices for consumer applications? The answer is no. We're the flip, providing the cloud of content that is, mobile based maps, imagery and so on and tools for the enterprise. That means, for example, local governments can spatially enable all their field workers. Sales people can access their business information, sales information through this. Oil companies can acces their natural resources. They're not only viewing, but updating maps from the field. Soldiers and we have a wide deployment of our tools in both the military and intel space can use this for local situational awareness. And it goes on and on. These are not in theory. These are ones that are already being done. My point here is that we're building enterprise technology for use within universities or businesses or government agencies or international organizations. The emphasis isn't trying to sell ads to consumers. Having said that, what we're seeing is that many of our customers are using our mobile devices and our Web viewers etc. to communicate to end users. Lots of users are struggling, spending a lot of effort getting their information out to the public. This is not any fault of theirs. But the whole open data movement has put on the agenda: We need to get geospatial information out. The first generation of that has [often] been to create kind of an open data portal. The problem with it is that people can download data, and they're very interested in downloading, say, environmental data. But then they need tools to be able to work with it. So what this does is it builds on the open data movement, but it provides map services of the information. It allows our customers, agencies who want to make their data available, to provide a map service of it in addition to the traditional data download. The experience so far like the White House [economic] recovery effort, Recovery.gov, was that this was an enormously valuable and powerful way to communicate to citizens. Where is President Obama spending money? On what projects? I can pan and zoom in there and I can get a new kind of open democracy by using maps. Well, this platform allows people without a server to be able to take their data, send it over to ArcGIS Online, it turns it immediately into a map service which is accessible by browsers and by mobile devices. In the past, people could do that sort of thing with our server technology but it meant that they had to buy a server, they had to stand up a server, they had to do system administration on the server, they had to build the application that would make this map come alive. With the ArcGIS Online environment, I can take a beautiful map that I built on the desktop, right click, send it over to online and it turns it into a service and an application that's immediately available to citizens or, if I'm inside the organization, if I want to share my information with all of my colleagues but they don't have a desktop [GIS system], I simply do the analytics on my desktop with my data, I send it over to the sever and then bang, it turns it into a service that mere mortals can see, view, understand and work with. This is for us going to be not just another incremental step in our evolution of a new platform, but the whole cloud environment contextually means that it opens it up to other markets. It's GIS people sharing their information across their enterprise, it's business intelligence people finally having a simple mapping tool I don't want to call it GIS for dummies, but I guess I will a kind of analysis platform for them to do geocoding, spatial analysis, cluster analysis, heat mapping, easily without any training. 4/7
5 And then this third market of [new analysis of existing GIS data]. We've seen how simple Google Maps has made mapping come alive. Imagine being able to access authoritative source data and tools people can actually [use to] analyze those layers, it's going to change the world. It's going to cause people again to think more deeply about geographic content, the environment, land use, social issues, policy issues, society will become more spatially aware. That's one of those big ideas. But on a practical side, this is actually for the enterprise side, this is basically GIS for organizations in a much more open and fluid environment. Many of Computerworld's readers are the IT readers who are supporting the IT infrastructure and not all of them are comfortable letting that go. What would you say to them? That community, the IT CIO community, is embracing GIS like we've never seen it. It's always been integrated as part of the mission, just like CAD is integrated as part of the engineering mission. Increasingly, everyone from politicians to executives [is] saying 'I want to see my data on a map.' I have to say that the enterprise server has caused a huge growth in our market. I was thinking more in terms of the server, having control of the server as opposed to using the cloud. First off, many of these organizations are moving their data centers into a cloud architecture so they have their own private clouds. Particularly the intel [community] and military, they're not putting their information in a public cloud. But in other organizations, they actually are. [The] Department of Interior is a good case on this. I'm seeing that in other federal agencies, in cities, where they're saying, 'We can outsource this and get a 3 to 1 cost reduction of running our own server.' BP is one of our customers. [After the Gulf oil spill,] they stood up in a matter of days a huge mapping and GIS infrastructure for all the reporting of the government and their own work and also volunteers. When we presented this to their management there were a couple of decisions that they made. One was that they could far cheaper stand up the cloud services and also much faster stand up a cloud service in the Amazon environment. It zoomed up very fast, where they were making these several million maps a day, and then it dropped off quite dramatically. So it saved them millions by using this kind of elastic infrastructure. All the things that you say about cloud, the PR about cloud our experience is, it's really true. Especially when you have these needs for surge, and also it bypasses the whole capital investment. I'm sure that there are organizations and individuals who don't yet understand the value of cloud. I personally as a CEO was hesitant some years ago, but now I'm outsourcing much of our own stuff and obviously through ArcGIS Online. I think it's not a matter of politics. I think ultimately especially with government users they have limited resources, they can't afford to build their own data centers, or they'll do some of that and they'll do some outsourcing. I like to talk about heterogeneous approaches or a hybrid approach, where you have some data centers with especially sensitive data that you want to keep internally, and some of the map making, at least in our world, will be done on the outside in an open cloud. So, for example, our base maps, which many users are helping us build through crowdsourcing, are being put up into our open cloud, which is built on Azure and Amazon (which by the way is also a heterogeneous cloud). And some of the operational information which is sensitive to a company or an agency or an academic can be on their own data center or their own server. This is real experience talking, as opposed to marketing stuff about the value of the cloud. I'm just finding it very practical and so are our users who are embracing this. 5/7
6 I would think the explosion of what some people are calling big data there's just so much geodata out there, between mobile devices and GPS does that drive what you feel the next generation of Esri should be? Our cloud architecture and the technology that's in it is a catalog of all the data, content and services that are referenced externally that people can access. That's kind of its heart and soul. It references what we call items, which are data sets and services. It's also a hosting environment, so people can send their data up here and it turns it into a service for people to use. Our architecture is central hosting, yes, and distributed hosting. So big servers that have base maps or imagery or realtime servers like traffic or weather are all registered into that environment. And I can access those. That's all contextual background for saying that many of our customers are wanting to implement big data technology platforms, open data technology platforms inside of cloud environments. And we are working with a number of them. I really can't talk about them. At the partner level, we've integrated and collaborated closely with IBM on their streams technology and on Neteeza, which is a big data processing engine. We also have integrated with Hadoop. Big data means a lot of different things. It's whatever the marketing department wants to call it. From my perspective where geo fits into it is in geotagging these big streams of data that are coming in, that's one like by address, by country, by location. And then geoalerting. And then to some extent end stream geoprocessing, like proximity of things. Let's take terrorists for example. Are these bad guys near each other or not? Or is this guy getting close to a border or not? You can fill in the blanks on that one. And then it has to do with spatial analytics, and the visualization of big data. This is real time visualization. So we have real time server capability in our server platform which is dealing with 5,000 transactions/second a big pipe of information... So we figured out how to visualize that and do spatial analytics and heat mapping and look at sensitive points. So we are very much engaged in what I call an early stage of big data processing using our geoweb services coming out of online, [that] is the architecture we're actually implementing. Definitely, geo is one of those really big data data sets. One point that I'd like to make is that this architecture has the effect of connecting all of our users in an organization in time and space, and all of the devices that our users are using. In the past, the way that you integrated, was you bought a bloody mainframe computer. That was during the '60s and '70s. Then later, when database technology came along, what you did is you bought a common DBMS. And that's how you interacted with the data, though data transactions and views. As Web services started to emerge, we could communicate through HTML pages. But with this combination of the cloud connected to devices, organized around a common map and related services, we can actually collaborate and integrate and connect those three words all in the same way. Collaborate meaning we're connected. Integration meaning I can overlay maps or I can sketch on maps, I can integrate different kinds of enterprise data. For example, I can overlay customers on top of outage signals and know what customers I have to notify that there's outage. Or I can connect EPA's environmental data with CDC's maps on breast cancer, and I can begin to look at relationships. I think everyone is looking at the movement going to the next phase of technology, as you said, from the mainframe to the minicomputer to the desktop to the Internet, and now we're here at mobile/cloud. What that's going to mean as it gets more mature. Geography 6/7
7 will provide the ultimate integration platform for the enterprise. Geography through maps is so intuitive, and creates understanding. You look at patterns of disease on a map and you instantly can have new insights. You interrelate maps and you instantly mentally bring it together. So it's an intuitive platform and it's an integrative platform. Our real handicap, frankly, for many years has been that it's been a back office technology, or an expert technology I don't like the backoffice thing because it suggests IT but it's been an experts' domain. But this year, here's a big statement: Esri is totally shifting to focus on making geography ubiquitous and geographic knowledge ubiquitous in institutions and in society in general. Positioning it so that people actually understand what we've been working on for years is part of our challenge. Everybody's caught up in the firestorm of Apple's vs. Google's maps, and I'm thinking 'OK, now we're going to do something really transformational in the enterprise and nobody's going to notice.' The big message for us is this is an expansion of GIS across the enterprise, and it has public access dimensions associated with it, and it has all of the security and control access and best practices of cloud built into it. This is sort of Esri coming out. That's kind of a weird way to describe it, but it's true: We have been the world's best kept secret. We are very popular with our users. We have all kinds of stories of great breakthroughs and great decisions that have been made with our tools. Relatively trivial technologies like simple Web mapping, like the Google thing, has been so popular with people. It gives me evidence and comfort that this is going to be a very large year for us. Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e mail address is You can follow her on on Facebook, on Google+ or by subscribing to her RSS feeds: articles blogs. See more by Sharon Machlis on Computerworld.com. 7/7
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