ArcGIS as “Cloud Bundle” on Amazon’s Cloud

ESRI has finally come out with a cloud based ArcGIS Server. You can lease ArcGIS Server on Amazon’s EC2 for one year with ArcGIS Server, SQL Server 2008 Workgroup, ArcGIS Desktop (but only to administer ArcGIS Server) and one year of support. Prices aren’t listed, but I’ve heard it isn’t that competitive to your existing licensing. Plus don’t forget with that Large Windows Instance of EC2, you’ll spend $5,000 hosting the thing for that year minimum.

For those who already have ArcGIS Server licenses, here is your package. For this you get everything listed on that webpage plus:

The ArcGIS for Amazon Jumpstart package is a consulting service. It includes one week of up to four (4) days of onsite consulting.

Hmm, guessing that most will still just roll your own rather than pay ESRI for consulting. Nice option for those who need help, but onsite ESRI consulting won’t be cheap.

Back to the Cloud Bundle. What is good about this? First off I’m glad to see ESRI finally start to publicly address demand for ArcGIS Server on Amazon EC2. They’ve broken their traditional maintenance based approached to licensing which is something I think we are all very happy about and they’ve automated the process with an AMI ready to go.

ESRI sales team ready to hit the road and sell the cloud.

What is still lacking? While this is a step into ArcGIS as SaaS, it still requires you to go through your local ESRI office. This will mean that large ESRI customers will get great breaks and those who are smaller or new will pay list prices. The cloud is supposed to bring equity, but the traditional sales model of ESRI plays favorites. Windows only instance of this AMI is also problematic. The cost of a large windows instance of EC2 is going to offset all the benefits of the a 1 year license. Of course ESRI doesn’t support Fedora or CentOS so until they do most are probably going to not scale up ArcGIS in Amazon.

I see nothing about ESRI helping with backing up these Ec2 instances and how that is going to work. These EC2 instances can crash (hello ArcGIS!) and just disappear. If that happens you lose EVERYTHING. Basically this is a GIS infrastructure play and it is up to the user of their AMI to handle this. That said, one ArcGIS license isn’t enough to do redundancy (though maybe the terms allow this). Basically you are paying to use a single, slow (compared to typical servers) hardware with no methods to back up your services. YIKES!

That said, we were all lead to expect nothing on this until later this year so this means ESRI is addressing users concerns. There is still lots of darkness on this such as does it include updates (would a 10.o users automatically get 10.1 when it comes out?) and service packs (I guess one could just apply them, but that puts the maintenance of the AMI on the user not ESRI). I’m looking into this because I really want to run an ArcGIS Server on the Amazon cloud, but not pay for a typical license. Plus actually having ESRI support for EC2 is probably worth it in the long run either way (this service or roll your own). The ESRI UC should be very cloudy (yea I used a cloud pun).

Mix a little ESRI and cloud and who knows what you’ll get