Esri today unveiled a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment through which developers can embed geospatial capabilities into their applications by making an application programming interface (API) call to a cloud service.
Euan Cameron, CTO for developer technology at Esri, said the ArcGIS Platform will make it simpler for developers to incorporate mapping capabilities enabled by a geographic information system (GIS) system with, for example, a mobile application. The entire ArcGIS software stack can be accessed by those applications by making an API call. Previously, IT teams would have to stand up the entire Esri platform on their own to provide development teams with access to the Esri geospatial platform.
The PaaS environment also makes it possible for developers to access professional-grade geospatial content that can be plugged directly into their applications, Cameron said.
Geospatial platforms gained prominence with the popularity of mobile applications that require mapping capabilities. With the expansion of 5G wireless networks, the number of applications that require similar capabilities will continue to grow, Cameron said. A PaaS environment that abstracts the complexity of managing a geospatial platform behind a set of APIs will make it easier to build those applications at scale, Cameron said.
There are, of course, other approaches to making geospatial databases available as a service. However, Cameron said Esri has long history of providing these capabilities alongside content it curates across a wide range of consumer and business applications. Those capabilities are now an API call away from any application, Cameron said.
Of course, DevOps teams will need to integrate a PaaS environment that can be invoked as a cloud service within their overall workflow. Esri is committing to making its PaaS offering available on a global network of data centers to minimize latency for applications making API calls to its platform.
These days, it’s hard to imagine an application that doesn’t require at least some degree of geospatial capabilities. Time and place have become critical elements of any application experience. The total cost of providing those capabilities drops considerably when the geospatial platform required to enable them is managed by its provider. In fact, as application development continues to evolve, DevOps teams often find themselves orchestrating a broad range of API calls to external services. Each one of those calls is simple enough, but over time, the sheer number becomes challenging to manage. Nor is the quality of the APIs surfaced by each service always of the same quality.
Regardless of how geospatial capabilities are integrated into an application, the days when dedicated teams managed complex GIS platforms may finally be coming to an end.