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Esri ArcGIS.com moves from “SELL” up to “HOLD” status with GeoIQ acquisition

To steal a line (but not the scream nor props) from Jim Cramer, “I am moving from a SELL to a HOLD!” on ArcGIS.com.

Like most Esri customers I talk to, I have been skeptical of Esri’s ArcGIS.com from the start.

Their whole “mapping for everyone” slogan just seemed so un-Esri considering they have always let Google and Bing have the mass public side of the geospatial industry.

I just didn’t think Esri was structured in such a way to truly put out a product that was simple enough for “everyone” to use, yet robust enough to be actually useful to their current geo-centric customers.

Add in the fact that they (circa 2007) ran their first attempt at multi-tenant SaaS, ArcWeb Services, into the ground… forcing a complete shutdown of the mess of code they created by the lack of change control while tweaking the environment for customer A and then re-tweaking for customer B, etc, etc, etc.

Esri’s first attempt at SaaS, ArcWeb Services, circled the toilet bowl for years and was finally flushed in 2007; but, Esri has new life with ArcGIS.com and now GeoIQ.

Ok, so maybe it was “lesson-learned” and now (circa 2009) Esri had matured their IT practices enough to give SaaS another try? I get it, they are Esri, they have virtually unlimited funding and they aren’t going to give up easily. Plus, they had to think that another try at SaaS was low risk because even if they just roll out poor-man’s SaaS platform, the slick Esri marketing engine alone could make it “the market leader” in no time.

The problem was that there was already someone doing such a good job running a “Mapping SaaS” product that Esri’s poor-man version of SaaS simply couldn’t gain traction (there were many other reasons too, particularly the feet dragging on the licensing / pricing of ArcGIS.com, which is most likely related to the fear of cannibalization of their prior ArcGIS Server sales… But that’s a whole different topic).

Point being… every time ArcGIS.com would roll out functionality or a new data set, it seemed this other product already had it. Not only that, but this other product’s framework and data tools were so intuitive and robust that it sometimes wasn’t even the company itself that was beating Esri to the punch… Rather it was just one of this product’s users. Salt in the wound.

This product that gave Esri so many market presence headaches was GeoIQ; and, particularly their “power to the people” free mapping version of the product, GeoCommons.

So yesterday, Esri put this pain to bed with their acquisition of GeoIQ (see: http://blog.geoiq.com/2012/07/10/building-from-the-inside/)

My reaction: Incredibly smart move and kudos to Esri!

This “bite the bullet and swallow your pride” move by Esri will, in my opinion, vastly change the landscape of the geospatial industry in as quickly as months, not years … And all other mapping-as-a-service providers should be very scared, including Google.

Why? People.

Great GeoIQ technology aside, the leadership that Esri acquired along with the technology of GeoIQ, particularly Andrew Turner and Sean Gorman, are some of the best thought-leaders in the geospatial industry and more importantly possess proven multi-tenant SaaS and cloud computing experience… Something Esri will surely leverage to harden and proliferate ArcGIS.com to the masses.

My self-deprecating, personal example of the quality and intelligence of GeoIQ’s people:

As my company, Skygone, was just beyond the startup stage and was working on putting geospatial software on the cloud, I visited Andrew in his Arlington, VA offices (circa 2009) to try to convince him to put GeoIQ on Skygone’s Cloud technology so they could more easily deliver it customers. An easy sell I thought.  We were having a lot of success (and still are) helping “boxed product” companies deliver their software via cloud.  The problem was GeoIQ didn’t ever have a box.

So, let’s just say that attempt fell on deaf ears as for the next hour Andrew gave me a humbling education about how all their multi-tenant and single-tenant instances were already on the cloud (Amazon Web Services), and how they already had the ability to auto-scale and perform push-button updates across all their (then, 90+, as I remember) instances.

I’ll never forget the way I felt after that meeting… I called my CTO and told him: “We can’t help those guys… They’re set up to take over the world”… And while getting acquired by Esri a couple years later isn’t quite storming the beach at Normandy, it’s absolutely a milestone to be proud of as long as their journey doesn’t end with the signing of the papers over to Jack.

The combination of Esri’s market presence and their vast sales staff, together with the brains and SaaS / Cloud experience of GeoIQ’s talent fills the weaknesses and gaps of both merging parties…

Esri’s weakness of not moving fast enough into Cloud and SaaS over the last couple years and not having the experienced personnel on staff to properly harden, secure, and scale a multi-tenant SaaS platform is now solved.

GeoIQ’s weakness of being small-ish and simply “not being Esri” when they walk into accounts is now solved by Esri’s huge presence and available contract vehicles.

This all results in a win – win for Esri and GeoIQ… And hopefully the biggest win will be for Mr. Consumer too!?

Congrats to both GeoIQ and Esri for closing this deal.  Looking forward to seeing how the two companies execute together.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ryan Hughes

Ryan Hughes, blogging at www.RyHug.com, is the Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) of Skygone (www.skygoneinc.com), a Cloud Computing solution provider to SI's, ISV's, Commercial, and Government. Education: MBA in Project Management from Penn State University; BS in GIS from Bowling Green State University Ryan currently has 10 years in Enterprise-level IT Program Management and Operations Management, as well as vast experience in Enterprise System Design and Cloud implementation methodology.

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