May 31, 2004
Dr. David Maguire on the ArcGIS 9.0 Product Family Release
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! The new release of ArcGIS, ArcGIS 9.0, is shipping this week. I spoke to Dr. David Maguire of ESRI about the new features of the product and how it has evolved.
ArcGIS 9.0 is directly compatible with ArcGIS 8 so people should be able to update their existing systems and keep working without having to make any major changes. There is a collection of additional and new features they can also take advantage of when they think the time is right. Read about it in this week's Industry News.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, New Products, Going on Around the Web, and Upcoming Events.

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Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Dr. David Maguire on the ArcGIS 9.0 Product Family Release

By Susan Smith

The new release of ArcGIS, ArcGIS 9.0, is shipping this week. I spoke to Dr. David Maguire, Director of Technology and Product Strategy for ESRI, about the new features of the product and how it has evolved.

Dr. David Maguire
With the release of ArcGIS 8, ESRI took a departure from their previous GIS platform. “ArcGIS 8 was really a completely new architecture and system from ESRI. In January, 1997 we made the decision to completely rewrite and rebuild our GIS software architecture,” explained Maguire. “ArcGIS 8.0 came out right at the end of 1999. We've been through a series of 13 releases since then and 9.0 is the latest evolution in the ArcGIS platform. It's really an update enhancement to the existing architecture and products, plus some new products that are coming out for the first time.”

ArcGIS 9.0 builds upon 8.3. It comprises an additional 100 person years of development which takes the total cost of ArcGIS to over US$100 million, according to Maguire. There are literally thousands of improvements and enhancements in ArcGIS 9.0.

Why did ESRI decide to undertake such a huge change? “ESRI started developing GIS products around 1980. The ideas and plans we had during the '80s and '90s were mainstream then but were overtaken by events. Another thing that happened was we had developed multiple source trees and parallel overlapping products. We had ArcView, with a great user interface and easy to use technology; we had MapObjects, a software component library for developers; we had ArcSDE, which allows users to work with relational database management systems and had an IT-focused architecture for delivering vast quantities of data quickly,” Maguire said. “Then we had ArcInfo which even then was
recognized as being the
most functionally comprehensive GIS available. The problem was you had to make a choice: whether you wanted GIS to be easy to use or powerful, or whether you wanted to deal with large quantities of data in a database or files on the desktop, whether you wanted to be an end user or a developer. We didn't want users to have to make those choices. Just because something is easy to use doesn't mean it has to be simple. We integrated all those products into a single integrated software architecture called ArcGIS.”

Where do the ideas come from for developing new software? “Our input for where we go with our software comes from three sources: first and foremost, it comes from our users and we get input from them on what is needed. Secondly, we look at general trends in information technology and what's happening in the industry and try to take advantage of things like relational databases or component based software and Internet technologies such as XML. Thirdly, here at ESRI we have ideas of where we think GIS should go in the future and we incorporate those into our software.”

ArcGIS 9.0 is directly compatible with ArcGIS 8 so people should be able to update their existing systems and keep working without having to make any major changes. There is a collection of additional and new features they can also take advantage of when they think the time is right.

In ArcGIS 9.0, there are two brand new software products and six major enhancements to round out the line. ArcGIS Server, a complete GIS system with advanced functionality running in a centralized advanced server environment, is the newest. Previously this capability was only available on the desktop in products like ArcView and ArcInfo. ESRI has made that available in a centralized server environment. It can be run over the web or a LAN. According to Maguire, this is radically new and one of its kind in the industry right now. “I anticipate within the next two or three years others will try to emulate it.”

ArcGIS server is part of the overall ArcGIS product family but as it's a new product you have to purchase it separately.

The other new product is ArcGIS Engine, a desktop technology for developers who want to build highly customized applications, i.e., to embed some GIS in a Visual Basic or Java program or a form-based application.

The core desktop products of ArcGIS 9, have a new geoprocessing framework and toolset. These provide the ability to combine two data layers by overlay style operations or to do proximity analysis like buffering. The product includes over 400 new tools as well as the framework, including tools for surface analysis, raster geoprocessing, data conversion, and many others. Existing maintenance customers get upgrades on the core product and existing extensions for free. One new ArcGIS 9.0 extension is Maplex, which solves the problem of putting labels on maps so they don't overlap each other or other features on the map. “This is a massive improvement in productivity for
cartographers,” said
Maguire. The other new extension is the Data Interoperability Extension, which provides read/write support for over 50 data formats. With this extension you will be able to read and write directly all the popular GIS formats. It was created in conjunction with Safe Software, and of course, they do implement many of the specifications of the OGC.

What is ArcMap GPS Support? “It's part of the core product that allows people to connect GPS devices to ArcMap so that you can digitize new features, collect data in the field using a GPS device, and store and display them inside a geodatabase,” explained Maguire.

Global 3D visualization enhancement comes in the form of ArcGlobe, which allows you to deal with large quantities of raster and vector data. With ArcGlobe you can take a global perspective and visualize and manipulate extremely large quantities of data in realtime. There are also big improvements in 3D object visualization and analysis. For example, 3D buildings and trees can be added to landscape views.

The sixth enhancement is in cartography. Quality and performance of output, in terms of making it easier to correct high quality production quality maps, is the focus of this enhancement.

Everything in the ArcGIS 9.0 product line is shipping right now, including ArcSDE 9.0. ArcSDE 9.0 is a piece of middleware that connects a wide variety of different clients - Internet browsers, devices, desktop GIS systems-- with a wide variety of different servers: Oracle, Informix, SQL server, DB2, etc. ArcSDE adds value because 1) it offers high performance, and 2) it offers a range of middle-tier services including long transaction support, topology support, and an extended range of data types beyond what the databases are able to offer.

What are the significant enhancements of that release? “I wouldn't say there are many large enhancements--rather they are small to medium sized enhancements some of which are quite technical,” noted Maguire. “You can 1) improve performance of handling raster data sets 2) partially update pyramid indexes to speed up data load, 3) compress multi-user databases while many users are still connected. Previously you had to move it into single user mode.”

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