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More than 2000 developers descended on the desert oasis of Palm Springs California for the 12th annual ESRI Developer summit. Although I have attended the ESRI International User Conference many times, this was my first developer summit and I was overwhelmed by the interest in developing exclusively for the ArcGIS platform. In Australia we would be struggling to get these numbers to a general GIS conference.

The focus was on the release of the new ArcGIS Enterprise. Although the name is new it represents a bundle of the existing products of ArcGIS server, ArcGIS Web Adapter, Portal for ArcGIS and the ArcGIS Data Store. Where most organisations would be familiar with working directly with server, the goal over time will to move the access point and focus to portal as these products are more tightly coupled. A number of server roles have also been introduced including the familiar GIS server as well as the newer roles of GeoEvent Server, Image Server and GeoAnalytics Sever. Organisations can mix and match these roles depending on need and each one can also be hosted on different machines. Although the version number has increased incrementally from 10.4 to 10.5, this is considered a major release and probably should have been numbered 11.0. Version 10.5.1 is expected mid-year with 10.6 planned for the end of 2017.

ArcGIS Pro has also moved up in the rankings becoming an increasingly dominant part of the ArcGIS desktop environment. It is multi threaded, better suited to the new Windows display environment, and it now supports vector tile creation, geodatabase topology, 3D object editing, labelling, charts and sharing on line. As you would expect there was a heavy emphasis on the enhanced software development kit. The aim is to move all ArcMap functionality, including development (ArcObjects) to the new ArcGIS pro platform (SDK – the new development environment). Notably Utility Network support is still absent from the platform but it “might” be included in version 2 due to be released at the end of the year.

There are now a range of environments for developing on the ESRI platform. The emphasis was on web development with over 50 sessions based on javascript and if you don’t want to write code you can build web apps using the web application builder which now has increased capabilities (including 3D). Desktop development was focused on python with about 25 sessions on this popular scripting language. There were over 20 session focused on ArcGIS runtime (this can be used to build standalone applications) and a dozen session on the ArcGIS Pro software development kit. There were also sessions focused purely on iOS and Android and for those interested in using a single platform to develop for iOS, Android and windows, there was an interesting session on Xamarin. In all there were almost 300 sessions of mostly one hour in length.

The ESRI showcase covered a huge area filled with computers, large screens and ESRI technical specialists and developers. There were also 3 large demo theatres. ESRI must have had most of their development team on site. The ESRI main campus is about an hour away in Redlands. ESRI also highlighted their R&D centres spread throughout the world with one of them based in Melbourne.

If you are a developer focused on the ESRI platform then there is no doubt that the ESRI developer summit then this is the place to be. More geeks than you can poke a stick at. Or in the case of the dodge ball tournament and party on the final night – more geeks then you can throw a ball at.