ESRI was blessed by a brief break in the mid-Atlantic weather last week just in time for its Federal User Conference. It was an interesting and valuable week for me personally full of lots of different interactions. The main themes that I took away from the experience were these:
- GIS has become a required and necessary component of the Federal IT Infrastructure. Gone are the days where GIS is a project-level technology pursued by a few geeks in a basement office. The CIO's of all federal agencies clearly have geospatial technology as a cornerstone of their IT strategy and are publishing geospatial content through a myriad of web applications and services. This observation is confirmed not only by the many case studies that I saw of federal agencies leveraging Service Oriented Architectures to provide geospatial visualizations and decision support, but also by the level of attention now being paid to federal geospatial by the big systems integrators. The trade show that accompanies the ESRI Fed UC was a pretty anemic affair only a few years ago. Now it is attended with some serious marketing investment by almost all of the big systems integrators and many other solutions providers as well. (Like PenBay Solutions for instance.)
- BISDM is being taken very seriously by the federal government. I have been heavily involved the development and evolution of the Buildings Interior Spatial Data Model (BISDM) effort since its inception. My hope has always been that many different kinds of organizations, but especially federal agencies, would find the model useful as a starting point for developing in-building GIS strategies for their own particular problems. Judging by the great response and attendance to the BISDM sessions in the Facilities track at the FedUC, many different types of organizations are now using BISDM and finding it to be really valuable.
- ESRI has clearly stated its intentions to support cloud computing architectures. This was big news to me. Until last week, I had been unsure about what position ESRI would take in reference to the cloud. I was fortunate to have been invited to the Executive Track on Thursday morning and the presentations in that session were all about how important cloud computing architectures are becoming to federal IT, and how ESRI plans to fully support cloud computing architectures with the release of ArcGIS 10 this summer. Certainly there are a lot of details about licensing models and how ArcGIS Server will be architected to really take advantage of the elasticity implicit in most cloud architectures but it is clear that ESRI has staked its claim on high-end Enterprise GIS and has committed publicly to supporting the cloud.
While the trade show venue was a little disappointing - no cell service on the floor meant that traffic was light - there was certainly active vendor participation. As is often the case, I found as many business opportunities with other ESRI partners as I did with current ESRI customers. Now if ESRI would just change the timing of this event to be held in April when the cherry blossoms are out in Washington...