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A Recap of the 2014 Esri Federal User Conference

Published February 18, 2014 by GISi George

feduc2014

What an event! We are always surprised at how effective the user conferences are in giving attendees the opportunity to network with clients, business partners, peers and experts in our industry. The Fed UC was no different.

If there is one word that touches on the all the opportunities that materialized at the conference it would be teaming. Teaming with Esri as a platinum partner in leveraging their current and upcoming technology to meet the needs of our mutual clients. Teaming with our industry partners to bring a comprehensive suite of products, services, and organizational knowledge to take on the big challenges. Teaming with our Federal clients to better understand their challenges and come up with innovative ideas to bring even more value to their stakeholders with even greater efficiency.

Here are some thoughts from some of our GISi crew who attended this year and what they had to say about various events:

Plenary

Jonah Adkins – The overall theme of the plenary was share. Get your data online – not a version of your data, the living document – the authoritative source. ArcGIS online can be your central repository from which multiple organizations can benefit from your data. The demo of ArcGIS professional, now with more ribbon, was good and progress has been made since the demo at the Esri International Conference. A highlight segment was a html5-based web application builder which allows you to create a custom, non-AGOL look for web apps similar to the story map applications. The demos after the morning break were segments featuring specific use-cases for organizations working within the Esri desktop to web ecosystem.

Ryan Taylor – The plenary had a consistent message of creating, curating, and sharing your data with other teams and/or organizations. While these seemed to be a central theme I noticed something else during the Plenary and other sessions. There was a much larger focus on creating maps and apps with a clean and lean user interface and user workflow. The trend seems to be in creating more smaller focused applications and services to solve a particular need as opposed to one large application that attempts to do it all often at the expense of simplicity. One such example was the trio of Landscape applications. Each one was focused on a specific need, modeling, planning, and analyzing.

Sessions

Authoring Great Web Maps

Jonah Adkins – This demo theatre session provided some great tips and tricks for web maps. While it was focused to AGOL implementations, customizations created at the desktop level could help optimize published web maps.

Enabling Cartographers:  Geoplatform.gov

Jonah Adkins – This session was an overview of geoplatform.gov, a geo one-stop provided by the Federal Geographic Data Committee, and how the EPA’s implementation of AGOL allows users to make their authoritative data and maps available to the world.

Open Government, Open Data

Jonah Adkins – This session was introduction to the soon to be released ArcGIS for open data. Built on AGOL, a user would add their authoritative data to this instance, it would then be available in a number of formats, shapefile, geojson, rest endpoint, etc. Also, each feature gets a durable URL.

Big Data Spatial Analytics: The Practice

Jonah Adkins – This was an overview of using big data tools to process GIS / tabular data.We are unsure if security restrictions would allow us to use these tools, but it would be cool for on-the-fly processing of heat maps, etc.

Facilities: Sustainability GIS

Zac Wilson – The Energy Information Agency presented an energy data visualizer. The data is available through an API. Energy data is collected through surveys. Major plants are updated every 2 to 3 months and smaller plants are updated once per year.

AECOM presented an installation-level energy modeling approach to planning energy projects. One new variable that I haven’t heard mentioned before was ecosystem services.

Securing ArcGIS Server Services

Zac Wilson – this session focused on controlling access and permissions via authentication (either directly to GIS Server or through web adaptor) and authorization. The services were either in Portal or AGOL. The message was that it’s possible to manage groups either through built-in user stores or other pre-existing user stores, e.g. AD. Specific roles available are Administrators, Publishers, and Users.

Big Data and Analytics

Zac Wilson – Mansour Raad ran this session. I’ve seen him present before and always enjoy his sessions. At the end, he lobbied us for an all “5” rating because he has four kids he needs to put through college. J Session outlined techniques for combining a big data stack and analytics with display in ArcMap. Mansour defines big data as having either high Volume, Variety, or Velocity. Some of the energy data fits the Volume definition. Mansour recommended installing the Cloudera quick start VM. Also, Esri has some basic tools to help with integrated Hadoop into geospatial workflows.

ArcGIS Enterprise Systems: Performance and Scalability

Ryan Taylor – Probably the best session I attended was about performance and scalability of your map services. There was some good information in there about how Map Services are CPU bound, how you might design a system for your desired user base, and how to build a well performing system. However the best information I received was an introduction to three new free tools to help diagnose and correct performance issues you may have with your map services. These were:

  • System Monitor – This application can be configured to monitor and report on the health of your map and web services.
  • System Test – This application allowed you to perform load testing on your configured system. It worked not only with map services but even with your own custom services.
  • System Designer – This tool helps you to design a system that should perform as needed based on your desired user load, hardware configuration, and network configuration. While this is not exactly brand new I had not seen the before.
  • Mxdperfstat – Another tool to help diagnose performance issues you may have with your mxd. Command line but potentially very powerful.

These tools all look like excellent additions to our utility belt and have the potential to help us zero in on any bottlenecks that may prevent us from optimally running our services. And they are free! The can be found at ArcGIS.com by search for: “owner: EnterpiseImp”. Be sure to check the “Show ArcGIS Desktop Content” box.

From the GISi Booth

Amanda Williams – The 2014 Esri Federal User Conference was bigger this year than last allowing us to show off our brand-new booth and it really got a lot of attention.

Our most popular demo at the booth was GISi Indoors, which captivated audiences from all backgrounds. Most attendees found the technology to be groundbreaking and “cool”. Seeing the “live” dots moving around on the screen at the conference was eye-opening and enthralling, and attendees were even trying to identify which dot they might be! The Navy NSGEM interface was the other most popular demo that was presented at the booth. Many found the information to be helpful and could see other real-world applications of this type of interface.

Lastly, GISi George caught the eye of a number of those who passed our booth. He made sure to let others know we are serious about our work, but also know how to have fun, too. George enjoyed a banana on Day 2 of the conference, but luckily he behaved and did not wander off at any time.

Image Credit: All rights reserved by Esri

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