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23 January 2018

Geographic information systems (GIS) have proven their worth in a vast array of disciplines and organizations. Today, hundreds of thousands of organizations use GIS for managing their systems of record, making maps and performing spatial analytics. The unique power of GIS rests in its ability to integrate multiple sources of information and provide a common visual language.


The web GIS pattern has democratized geographic information access and is broadening its reach significantly. It has transformed GIS beyond siloed applications and simplified access by abstracting geographic data into standard spatial services. Esri has engineered the concept of web GIS into platform technology that supports simple and smart mapping, powerful analytics, application programming interfaces (APIs), and apps that deliver functionality for mobile devices, the web, or the desktop. This web GIS platform empowers a range of users from individuals, workgroups, departments and even entire organizations.


The platform enables interaction and collaboration between multiple self-contained web GIS deployments, scaling web GIS to achieve the concept of a system of systems. We call this pattern distributed GIS. Interactions in distributed GIS revolve around shared items (web maps, web scenes, layers, apps, dashboards) with optional automatic replication across multiple GIS systems that leave the data at the source of truth.


Administrators set up their nodes in this network and create the rules of engagement that reflect how the parts of their organization interact, including defined roles that limit what individuals can access, edit or create. The resulting distributed GIS enables two-way dialogue among multiple entities at a far greater scale than previously envisioned.


The transition from web GIS to distributed GIS revolves around the importance of identity. Identity allows administrators to preserve role-based permissions that exist in each organization. Users gain portability with access to their apps and maps from wherever they log in. Organizations can leverage roles in configured apps that bring together people and processes to address cross-cutting issues.


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