Any of you visiting the Centre of Excellence or visiting Esri’s main site is likely a user of ArcGIS products, especially ArcGIS Desktop and to certain extent ArcGIS Online. What the academic courses taught you are the GIS concepts, how to think like a GIScientist, and how to use the tools, mainly ArcGIS Desktop. But what if we were to add a bit of spice in the advance GIS academic courses just by teasing the concepts of ArcGIS Enterprise? I’m talking about applying GIS at an industrial scale. Will that catch your attention and change your perception of how GIS operates in the real world among institutions? In this blog, I’ll describe to you of what ArcGIS Enterprise is, what you can do with it, and how to prepare yourself maturely prior to graduation.

What is ArcGIS Enterprise?

I’ve heard of ArcGIS Enterprise before, but that wasn’t during my undergraduate or master’s (of course that was 5 yrs. ago). Nor was it at some of the general geography conferences. It was when I entered my PhD at McMaster, one of my close colleagues briefly introduced it. However, I didn’t get to hear it in-depth, nor see it in action until I attended the 2017 DevSummit in Palm Springs. Again, another good reason why you should attend to this conference.

According to Esri, ArcGIS Enterprise is a full-featured mapping and analytics platform that combines a robust GIS server and web-GIS infrastructure. You can kind of think of it as the AWS or Azure of GIS. ArcGIS Enterprise can be as basic as the installation of a standalone ArcGIS Server (i.e. host web feature services through your ArcGIS REST API) to the complexity of installing ArcGIS server on several linked machines. A full deployment of ArcGIS Enterprise consists Portal for ArcGIS (frontend interface), two web adaptors (server and portal for online security), ArcGIS Data Store (storage), and ArcGIS Server (the critical workhorse). For more information of each of these components, check this link out.

What you can do with it?

Short answer: infinite applications. The longer answer consists some of the core uses:

1) A way to create your organization or geospatial department/team

2) Share maps and apps either within the organization and/or 3rd party collaborators

3) Manage and secure geospatial data at the database level. Additionally, connect to other databases, such as PostgreSQL or Apache Hadoop.

4) Automate your web-GIS infrastructure

5) Perform server-based analytics and translate the results with some of these additional server functionalities: a) ArcGIS Image Server; b) ArcGIS GeoAnalytics Server; c) ArcGIS GeoEvent Server; d) ArcGIS Business Analyst Server.

6) New – ArcGIS Enterprise Sites (build webpages)

How to Prepare for it?

From my perspective, the best way to prepare for it is exposure. Get yourself involved at an organization that uses these services as part of their business model. This will help you gain some insights into how industry operates. By landing at the “right” organization and position involving ArcGIS Enterprise, you’ll have the opportunity to work with GIS professionals and administrators. Hypothetically, if they don’t have a GIS administrator, then this is your chance to shine regardless if you haven’t done it before. With that, here’s what I suggest you conduct based on the following steps:

  1. Ask these questions to your organization.
    1. What is the organization’s ultimate mission and their business model?
    2. The data characteristics (type, raw or refined, frequency, and scale)
    3. Available resources (hardware, funding, and man-power)
  2. Based on the characteristics in Step 1, design of what you envision the architecture would look like.
    1. For instance, if you’re collecting massive amount of real-time data you will certainly need GeoEvent Server (highly recommended to be installed on a separate machine to lower latency).
    2. Always communicate with your supervisor or co-leader of your design. Consult with Esri for feedback if required.
  3. Once the envisioned architecture has been approved, follow the step-by-step tutorials. The steps are simple to follow; however, from my experience, it took longer to install due to debugging IT-related problems (i.e. enabling specific ports; creating & validating SSL certificate). Getting guidance/technical support from people at Esri, who are familiar with the process, is very helpful.
  4. Launch your Enterprise and watch it mature over time. Depending on what services the organization may do, some may require setting up automated scripts (i.e. collecting data once every week, perform GIS analyses, and publish content).

While these are my recommended steps, I’d consider them more to be guidelines as there is no silver bullet in how to setup ArcGIS Enterprise according to various requirements. Lastly, ArcGIS Enterprise is mainly built for industry purposes, but it can also be applied within large-scale academic programs.

Useful Resources

  1. What is ArcGIS Enterprise?
  2. Installation Guides
  3. Whitepaper – Functionality Matrix
  4. Video: ArcGIS Enterprise: An Introduction