The Future of Cloud-based GIS Analysis with ArcGIS Online

The cloud is growing in importance for GIS professionals, with cost efficiency, scalability, and flexibility as major drivers. We can see the beginnings of cloud options for many organizations with the ability to run ArcGIS Server in the cloud and also via Esri’s managed services in the cloud.

On a similar, but yet somewhat different and exciting frontier, ArcGIS Online is a key part of the Esri vision for ArcGIS in the cloud. However, up until recently the focus for ArcGIS Online has been on the data part of GIS – making and sharing maps, apps, and other resources, and organizing online communities.

At the 2011 Esri International User Conference we introduced new ArcGIS Online capabilities – hosted services from Esri that enable anyone, not just GIS professionals, to be able to publish Web services using CSV files, shapefiles, and other sources. These capabilities also enable GIS users to publish maps via hosted services directly in the cloud from their ArcGIS Desktop, leveraging data in their enterprise and making ArcGIS Desktop the premier dashboard for Web publishing.

Currently in closed beta, these emerging ArcGIS Online capabilities will enable anyone to publish geographic information in an efficient, scalable, and cost-effective manner. And perhaps most importantly, they will make publishing GIS services that can be accessed by anyone easier than ever before.

During the Esri User Conference plenary Jack Dangermond spoke about the evolution of ArcGIS Online, and Jeremy Bartley and I demonstrated new capabilities that included publishing web services directly via ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Desktop:

As significant as these capabilities are, they are focused on publishing maps and layers. But what about the ability to use ready-to-run geoprocessing tools and perform analysis via the cloud?

To answer that question, here’s an Esri Insider peek at some very exciting work in progress from the ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Explorer Online development teams. Below is a screen capture showing the current development version of ArcGIS Explorer Online using cloud-based buffer and clip services to find the locations of wells within 200 meters of any stream:

The capabilities will include a long list of what could be described as “classic” ArcGIS capabilities, before only available to GIS professionals but soon offered via cloud-based services to non-GIS professionals alike. These promise to change how ArcGIS can be used, leveraging GIS throughout existing organizations and empowering many new users with GIS capabilities.

These capabilities will also be available in a variety of applications including the built-in map viewer, configurable Flex and Silverlight applications, and Web APIs. Stay tuned for more announcements over the next few months.

Bern Szukalski

About Bern Szukalski

Tech evangelist and product strategist at Esri, focusing on ways to broaden access to geographic information and helping users succeed with the ArcGIS Platform. On a good day I'm making a map, on a great day I'm on one. Follow @bernszukalski or email
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  1. karlw says:

    Thanks for the sneak peek Bernie, looks great.

    “Stay tuned for more”… I’m looking forward to it.

  2. azolnai says:

    Anticipating dust storms in THE weather event in Kuwait. I fine-tuned my banner map to create a simple yet effective map and presentation – two for the price of one! – using embedded ArcGIS Explorer. Easy huh?

  3. AriAtEvari says:

    This is great and I will use it, but I feel this is just Esri’s cloud solution. It seems a very comparable to Autodesk’s (or any other vendors) cloud solution. Leveraging this platform lowers the barrier to entry for geographers to publish mapping services. We do geography and there is nothing specifically geography oriented, besides the content of the service, in the workflow here.

    I think we are missing an important concept related to cloud computing and mobile which will be greatly beneficial to the GIS industry. I would really like to see a streamlined process to publish editable services to the cloud to be consumed and edited through mobile clients. Leveraging cloud and mobile technologies together is a particularly valuable concept as it relates to geography because end users are “in the map.” This is not true for CRM cloud solutions, the current Autodesk cloud solution or Microsoft’s cloud office solution. There are important concepts related to location, cloud and mobile which I don’t think Esri is taking full advantage of.

  4. hlzhang525 says:

    Bern,Quite amazing idea to do GIS analysis with Cloud-based ArcGIS Online!
    With the release of 10.1, it looks that ArcGIS Online already becomes one of critical products/services from ESRI.
    However, quick question here, and hopefully it can get your attention to this matter.
    For security concerns, most of larger organizations (especially, larger corporate organizations or governments) do not favor the hybrid data uses from both ‘Outside’ such as Google Maps,  Bing Maps or ArcGIS Online (Internet) and ‘Inside’ such as different corporate databases (Intranet).
    We are looking forward to ‘private’ Cloud or ‘ArcGIS Online on Promise’ behind the proxy server.

    • Bern Szukalski Bern Szukalski says:

      Yes, you are right there are many organizations that prefer to keep everything behind their firewall, and maintain everything from their own infrastructure. This is what ArcGIS Portal is meant to do. It’s essentially the ArcGIS Online framework that can be locally installed on your own hardware, and can be brought completely within your organization. Some organizations also implement this in a hybrid way – keeping their corporate geospatial assets completely behind their firewall, and still using maps and apps from the public ArcGIS Online cloud. ArcGIS Portal is implemented along with ArcGIS Server on your own infrastructure. For more information you can visit this website to get started: