I still don’t know what ArcGIS Online is

Heres Johnny

Esri Marketing is knocking on my email inbox

OK, so lets try and figure out what ArcGIS Online is. I sure as heck can’t make sense of what Esri marketing is telling me, it’s all contradictory marketing nonsense. So here are my theories.

Geography Network 2.0

Well it is possibly the spiritual offspring because we couldn’t figure out what that was for either. Plus while Esri hosts a lot of data for you, it sill is a reference point for that slow ass ArcGIS Server you have running on that ancient Dell PowerEdge server on that DSL line your IT department hasn’t figured out still exists.

ArcGIS Server NG

ArcGIS Server is a huge drain on Esri. The technical support effort they put into supporting people who have no right trying to install server software must be enormous. Plus 9.3, 10.1, SP1, SP2, SP3, SP4, SP5, etc are all confusing and who knows if you have the right version. By migrating all you to a hosted solution, they can take away your right to install ArcGIS Server incorrectly and make sure you continue to pay maintenance.

Google My Maps for ArcGIS

People use Google Maps to share information freely. Why shouldn’t they use ArcGIS for Online instead? Quick, get that to the marketing team!

ArcGIS for Cloud

Oh my yes. The cloud is like the information superhighway meets the world wide web. In the middle, ArcGIS Online.


I thought this was what we were calling ArcGIS Online. I’m totally confused.

ArcGIS for Content Management

Wait, I already debunked that.

Here is my fear for Esri. They are forcing everything new through ArcGIS Online and it ends up screwing up some of the more innovative products their teams are creating. At this point, do you really think Esri Maps for Microsoft Office has any hope given it requires ArcGIS Online?

Update: Sean McGinnis and All Points Blog have similar thoughts.

  • Stanley Kubrick

    James’ on fire! LOL @ Knock Knock.

    • GIS Man

      Great thinking…

  • http://twitter.com/gisfish Brad Fisher

    James I’m with you as to who, what & where it all means for the future of esri solutions…  

    Residing outside of the good old USA, I’m intrigued to see the pricing model as to me this underpins its success as we typically get pay ‘premium’ for ESRI software when it comes to regional distributors* adding their $$$ as part of the value-add they provide us (!).  As i understand, pricing will typically be part of ELA arrangements so one price for you, another price for me.  In additional to the pricing model, this assumes a couple of things:
    – Assuming ‘business’ is prepared to put all their trust into Jack’s basket.
    – Assuming ‘geo industry’ in general is ready to make the leap to the ‘cloud’.  I know a lot of industry is moving there, but with the clients i work with, cloud still sends shivers down their spines.  Typically ‘commercial’ clients what to know where there data resides & not just in the never never land of the www.  I know I know… this is a topic in itself (I don’t want to start debating the pro’s & con’s of private cloud vs ‘cloud’ & so on), but it a significant factor that still remains a barrier to its uptake.  
    – SLA’s – I’ve not dug into this side of the offerings but I’m presuming if your signing up for a paid solution you get a guarantee on your service?

    Perhaps its my line of work blurring my understanding of ArcGIS online, i’m trying not to be to0 pessimistic & look at the bigger picture.  I have participated in beta, i currently piggy-back off it for leveraging ESRIs (ootb) mobile apps (i only do this because the interface from AGS (10) is limited & the fact the ArcGIS Online provides you with a user security model), I do ‘like’ it (did i just say that) but I still struggle to identify where it sits in my esri inventory.  Your blog gives me hope that i’m not alone.

    This isn’t the first time i’ve highlighted my take on the topic, however after having a ‘play’ with it, I have been impressed with the ‘ease of use’ (actually, its scary how easy it is, so kudos to the technical folks behind it). 

    To summarise, if your client is into the ArcGIS online thing, then i could see it being a potential easy win for you.  For me right now, i just don’t see the clients coming forward to ask for it.  Will this change over time with the push & investment it is receiving from ESRI…. Hmmm, that i cannot answer. 

    * – Without offending my regional distributor, my comment is directed towards the wider ESRI distributor network/model as opposed to my local folk @ ESRI XX.

    • GIS Man

      I am with you Brad and James. The ESRI marketing machine gets 10 our of 10 for pushing and communicating the benefits but there are a few things are obvious to me from this UC;
      – The pricing is not clear – even to them. As they rely on a third party (Amazon), the charging appears to be “cloudy”. :-)
      – Most of their technical staff don’t know why the organisation is doing this and whether they are capable of being a cloud play.
      – No organisation I have spoken to will take it on in the near future.

      I think James posted a month back that this is a reaction to external factors (e.g. Google Map Engine) – it smells that way and no amount of marketing and gloss makes it different. ESRI is great at what it does – venturing outside of it’s core business makes me worried.

      Memories of ArcView 1.0 are coming back……..

      • Andrew Sandbagger

        I spoke to an ESRI rep who freely admitted that ArcGIS online is a direct reaction to what google are doing with google maps engine. Fair to say they may have gone overboard with the heavy integration of ArcGIS online with new tools for mobile, Microsoft office and the like.

  • Zhart

    One thing I just haven’t been able to get clarity on (and this is partly my fault for not participating in the beta program as I had intended) is the  functionality available to the services you have published on AGO. Right now I’m staring down the barrel of migrating to AGS enterprise advanced simply to support arcpad synchronization via web. If AGO is going to going to ever be a replacement for AGS, its going to have to support functionality like that (and if it did I would run right to AGO). I doubt we’re there yet.

    For those of you haven’t go check out Sean McGinnis’ blog that James has linked above…excellent point there as well.

  • Sheppyshepard

    I kinda like the marketing Esri is doing a lot better than the boring stuff they used to produce.

  • Andrew Sandbagger

    Spot on James – if you want to have some fun at the UC ask an d Esri rep how the “credits” work for licensing of Arcgis online. Then follow up with “what type of clients are you really targeting with this product”.

    On the positive side ArcGIS server 10.1 looks a lot simpler to manage and the admin API for management over http will open things up. Migrating an existing ArcGIS Server to 10.1 seems to be something that ESRI has forgotten about – I mean how important can providing tools for migrating to the latest version be right?

  • Zhart

    Oh…wow….I can upload a shapefile to AGO…..