ESRI FedUC 2009 – One Man’s Limited Perspective

I say “limited” because I went exactly one day (Thursday) and the day was filled with side meetings. Most of the technical information I got came from hallway discussions with ESRI staff and from folks in the showcase. Therefore, most of my observations are at a very high level.

I was very impressed with the 2008 FedUC and I have to say that it still stands in my mind as the best one yet. This year’s had a higher attendance but I thought the session content was not as deep. One thing that jumped out at me was the absence of defense (my primary focus area) in any significant way. There was not defense showcase and it really didn’t exist as a session track either. My own personal experience is that it’s hard to get defense-related content approved for discussion in an open forum. I am not sure if that was factor this year or not, though. Intelligence, interestingly, was represented as a track.

The “homeland security” sessions were primarily focused on emergency response. ESRI continues to market homeland security as an extension of their public safety business. I know ESRI is doing more in this area but it tends not to be drawn out well. I don’t underestimate the value of emergency response in the homeland security continuum but I have subscribed from day one to idea that homeland security is most effective if emergency responders don’t need to deploy in the first place. That said, natural disasters happen so responders are key players.

I also swung by the ESRI booth to check out ArcGIS for Situational Awareness. It’s basically a pre-staged 15TB server set up with data, SQL Server, ArcGIS Server and the like. They have put a Flex app on the front to act as the baseline COP out of the box. Basically, it’s a “soft product” that comes with some services to help set up and configure. In addition to the supplied/licensed data, the app can reach out and overlay data services. It is primarily targeted at state EOCs. The whole thing seems to be the brain child of Bruce Robinson. I did some work with Bruce back when he was in uniform during the early days of USNORTHCOM. He has been with ESRI for a while now and he’s got a good head for what needs to occur for effective SA and I was pleased to see him involved. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. SA is a subject that is dear to me so I was curious what this product looked like.

I also heard a bit about how the MSD services in ArcGIS Server 9.3.1 outperform ArcIMS. I was not able to nail down specific numbers or requirements before I left so I won’t discuss it any further. James and Dave were pinging me via Twitter to get more info but, alas, I could not before I had to run. They’ll just have to say bad things about me. 😉

I was able to see Dave Smith, Brian and Jack Flood, Michael Hardy and Brian Goldin while I was there. It was great to catch up with all of them and see what they’ve been working on.

As for the conference itself, it was a little more subdued than last year. Last year, everyone was anticipating the release of 9.3 and there was a lot of excitement. This year, the primary technical news was 9.3.1 (which would have been a service pack in 9.2) and ArcGIS Explorer build 900. There’s a lot of cool stuff in those two things but I don’t think they were enough to generate the kind of buzz that 9.3 was causing last year. The lack of a specific defense track was noticable although there was some defense-related content in other tracks. I won’t say they didn’t try. I got pinged from ESRI multiple times for stuff but customers just wouldn’t move off the dime. Maybe that happened across the board.

All in all, I think the FedUC is a worthy event. In years like this, where I won’t be going to San Diego, it’s nice to have this event to stay plugged in. I would like to see the scope of the event expanded to have a more overall public sector feel and address the needs of state and local level users as well. Also, for a three-day event, I think the first and last days are still a little “fluffy”. There’s plenty of room for additional content (sessions) on day one and probably a lot less “plenary.” Given that it’s shorter and more focused, I would think plenary activities could be over by noon with workshops and sessions in the afternoon.

So that’s my view from the cheap seats this year. Not terribly “newsy,” I know.