ArcGIS Server Pricing

James Fee’s report of a shift from ESRI to Open Source for GIS server technology has stirred up some interesting discussion.

The challenge I see for ESRI is of the chicken vs. egg variety.

ArcGIS Explorer (AGX)’s ability to run geoprocessing tasks appears to be a big advantage over Google Earth. However, until there’s a critical mass of published Geoprocessing services, there’s little incentive for people to download, install and learn AGX. They’ll likely just stick with GE. Likewise, until there’s a critical mass of AGX seats installed, there is little incentive for people to purchase an AGS license, develop and publish geoprocessing services.

I suggest that ESRI provide a hosting service, perhaps similar to Amazon’s EC2. By hosting AGS for 3rd parties, ESRI could have a more flexible licensing model. Instead of charging per cpu, ESRI could charge based on some combination of cpu cycles, network i/o, disk storage. Flexible pricing would encourage experimentation, people could develop geoprocessing services and quickly publish them. If the gp service catches on, the developer could buy more cpu resources from the ESRI datacenter. Perhaps ArcSDE databases could be available within the Datacenter and provided to the geoprocessing services on a fee basis. That way, if I have a geoprocessing service that buffers all the Starbucks and intersect it with available office space, I could do it without going through http (just a straight SDE connection).

Remember, a chicken is just an egg’s way of creating another egg.

6 comments so far

  1. Brian Flood on

    hi kirk

    I agree with your points above, AGX needs to hit critical mass before we can really comment on what the future will hold. I’m more worried about the AGX backend holding up to the massive demands that their launch will put on it. IMO, Google and MS are the only ones who can scale these types of applications out for mass consumption. YMMV

    also, the new GE API, while limited, does have just enough functionality to allow a plugin to act as a proxy for AGS Geoprocessing tools, so I think if there was ever enough compelling ones out there, we would soon see them running in GE.


  2. Administrator on

    Hi Brian –

    Good to hear from you. I’d be curious to hear more about Google plugins, I always thought they were client side plugins, do they have a server side plugin?

    Also, assuming I could develop a server side plugin for GE, does google have a datacenter somewhere with large databases that my plugin could access directly (not via http) ?

    Hadn’t thought about the AGX rollout overloading the backend … not a good first impression. Sure seems like ESRI needs to look into scaling the backend by sanctioning datacenters to host 3rd party developer gp services. Perhaps the datacenter could contain large replicated geodatabases like Business Analyst Online that my gp service could hit against.



  3. Brian Flood on

    hey Kirk

    plugins – there are not really plugins exactly, just the COM API which allows you to control GE via another peice of software. Its pretty limited but provides enough to be useful. Add in some clever subclassing and you can embed the main GE globe directly in your application. Add some GIS libraries (esri or otherwise) and you’ve got yourself a rudimentary GIS package allbeit with a lot of great base data 🙂 Here’s a complete mockup but it shows the possiblities:

    server – you can create your own server side stuff via NetworkLinks. I don’t know of anything that would give you access to Google’s base data though, the idea would be to overlay your data/analysis over the top of Googles in the client.

    AGX rollout – I hope it goes well…


  4. Rob on

    I think ESRI might have wanted to see third party companies set up hosting services that run AGS, customers could then purchase hosting space and processing power from them.

    As for the AGX roll out…GE bailed after two hours and they must have the largest pipes in town.

  5. […] customers – who perhaps don’t want the hassle of maintaining an enterprise AGS setup. I know Kirk and Brian have mulled over this situation and touted Amazon EC2 style solutions. Talking with my […]

  6. Alabo George on

    Look guys, I think ESRI has done well with AGS 9.3.1 especially with the release of GE API , they definitely have more tech plans, but for them to be in business- they wont lay all eggs at once – my only concern is the pricing… there is need to further modularize packages in the ESRI desktop and server suites.

    My thoughts.

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