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Virtualizing ArcGIS - Now and the Road Ahead

Posted by Jason Harris on Apr 8, 2015 9:36:45 AM

ThinkstockPhotos-478450750.jpgOne integral part of ROK’s enterprise solution is delivering virtualized ArcGIS Desktops to clients all over the country.  Many people have already discovered the benefits of virtualizing applications - especially those in ArcGIS platform.

Distributed office locations, smaller GIS shops, mobile workers, those looking to reduce their internal IT footprint are all great potential users of a SaaS (Software as a Solution).  This technology has come a long way in just the past few years, and is truly a viable, and in many cases, a superior offering to the traditional desktop PC loaded with ArcGIS Desktop.  That click icon to launch local ‘experience’ is now often bested by launching that same application from a Cloud server and delivering it to any device.

Make no mistake, the hardware requirements for a modern GIS continue to grow.  The processing power and RAM required of these power application just keep going up.  The  technical requirements and management of this software/hardware stack can be budget busters for IT departments.  What does the upgrade cycle look like now?  Does that entire department need the latest and greatest hardware to be able to work effectively?  Thats a great question that IT and GIS departments have to ask themselves regularly.  But now, there really is an option.  A good option.  A great option.  Take advantage of the massive amount of computing power that the cloud can leverage.  Those long running, cpu & ram hungry processes can be performed on cloud servers specially designed  for ArcGIS workloads. The heavy lifting is done in the cloud, and the application ‘interaction’ is done on the client device. The best thing is, it all looks, feels, and acts just like a local application.  No longer do you need the latest and greatest local PC - in fact any client with an internet connection will do.  All the processing power has moved to the cloud, where cpu, ram and other hardware resources are easily scaled to meet the ever growing demand of our beloved ArcGIS.


The Road Ahead

Well, thats where we are right now.  What's coming down the pipe?  I’m pretty sure we have all seen ArcGIS Pro by now.  I bet you were impressed by its amazing 3D capabilities as I was.  Pretty cool stuff.  Well, the bad news is that most current generation application virtualization isn't all that good delivering high end graphics and 3D content.  Sure it can push 2D maps that we are all used to all day long with ease - but that next gen visualization that ArcGIS Pro offers, well not so much.  Geesh, then why am I blogging about all this then?  Yes, Im sure you guessed already - that the next generation of application virtualization is already here. .

I won’t hide my thoughts on the subject, it is my belief that the increased hardware and visual  requirements for ArcGIS Pro make it an even better candidate for application virtualization.  New technologies, spearheaded by the graphic giant, Nvidia are now bringing high end graphics, including 3D visualization to application virtualization. Nvidia’s latest GRID virtual GPU platform will equip the ‘thin client’ - meaning any run of mill PC, Mac, or connected device, the full power of a high powered graphics workstation capable of demanding 3D rendering.  Whoa!  That sounds like a lot to digest.  In short, just as we are able to virtualize cpu and ram intensive apps, we can now do the same with graphic intensive apps - like ArcGIS Pro.  The concept is the same in both cases.  Now, the high end video cards (GPU’s or graphics processing units) are on the cloud servers where they can take advantage of the massive cloud infrastructure available to us. The results are simply streamed to the client - all the ‘heavy lifting’ is done by the cloud.

So why is ArcGIS Pro such a compelling candidate for app virtualization?  Remember all that hardware that is required to effectively run ArcGIS Desktop? Now, add on an additional component - usually the most expensive component of any local PC setup - the GPU.  GPUs are extremely expensive, and the technological improvements move at a rapid pace.  By moving this demanding workload  to the cloud, we have saved ourselves time and money by sidestepping the never ending, expensive upgrade cycle.

Esri has shown that they are very strong proponents of application virtualization. Many of you may have seen the demos at the Developer Conference demonstrating this.  Showed lots of very intense 3D visualizations via a Nvidia GRID virtualized ArcGIS Pro.  Very impressive stuff. ROK Technologies mirrors Esri’s enthusiasm for this technology and approach for effectively delivering graphic intense applications from a virtualized environment.  We are continuing to invest heavily in R&D and new cloud infrastructure to make this next gen technology available to you, our favorite people - our customers!

This was really a brief overview of the technology.  If you want to talk techie with us, we’d love to for you to get in touch. Here are a couple of links that can get you started too:


Nvidia GRID:

Some very interesting posts from Esri’s John Meza:

Topics: arcGIS, ArcGIS Hosting, ArcGIS Pro, Esri, Infrastructure as a Service, ROK Technologies

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