Friday, October 19, 2007

MS Virtual Earth COTS Anyone?

Will someone please make a Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) application built on top of Microsoft's Virtual Earth API?

Microsoft's Virtual Earth is arguably the best web mapping API out there. As a 9 year GIS professional and ESRI user I am very impressed with what I have seen from the MS product. Now I am no programmer and therefore have not gotten that deep under the hood of the MS VE API; however, I find the Live Local site far superior to Google Maps or any ESRI ArcIMS or ArcGIS Server site. I have also read and heard from others that the API is far more advanced than Google's.

I struggle with how to implement a new web mapping application based on the VE API. I am a GIS Coordinator in an ESRI shop. We are heavily invested in ESRI and ArcIMS. As we continue to drink the ESRI punch I assume we will migrate to ArcGIS Server eventually. Don't get me wrong I think ESRI is a great company and makes damn good GIS software. ArcIMS was revolutionary for its 2000. Yet when I move from Live Local back to my organizations ArcIMS powered web mapping application it is painful. Waiting for the endless back and forth between client and server for every operation.

My organization is in the process of migrating away from a very old, heavily customized, ArcIMS 3.1 era, HTML viewer with a healthy dose of ASP to an COTS package that will be powered by ArcIMS 9.1. As I step back from this project I realize that ArcIMS has been around long enough for a whole host of 3rd party implementors to create applications that sit on top of ArcIMS providing me with all the functionality I need. Back in the day, say 2001 or 2001, if one wanted to implement a web mapping application they had few choices, all involved heavy customization.

In 2001 the company I worked for implemented a beautiful looking application. The interface was modeled after ArcView 3.x. There were drop down menus and everything. Pretty cutting edge stuff back then. The only problem was it required considerable amounts of in house customization.

The organization I currently work for implemented our existing application in 2001. They hired a firm to build them a custom site utilizing the basic ArcIMS HTML viewer. There is code everywhere. It's like a rat's nest. Future development is a nightmare.

Now there are wonderful applications available for us to choose from. They can do everything for me. Connect to my Oracle, SQL Server, and Access databases. Produce beautiful looking maps from the same templates I create in ArGIS. I don't even have to open an AXL file anymore!!!

But what if I want to use the cool new Virtual Earth API. Yes I get the nice looking base data, the pretty darn good 1 foot imagery, excellently implemented Pictometry imagery (oblique/Birds Eye view), and fast panning and zooming that comes with the VE tiling algorithm. But to actually implement an application to meet the needs of my organization we are required to write tons of code. Granted the code is .NET and not HTML, javascript, or ASP, but it is still tons of code.

I want to be able to integrate my existing spatial data residing in Oracle or SQL Server into a VE powered application. I want to integrate my other tabular data within the site. I want a web based application management tool that will allow me to configure and manage the delivery of my data within the site.

Is there someone working on this? If not then why?

No comments: