Introduction to ArcGIS

ArcGIS is a geographic information system (GIS) used to create, manage, analyze, and map all types of data. GIS is a proven IT technology that helps users understand patterns, relationships, and geographic context, providing a foundation for mapping and analysis that is used for business, operational, and scientific workflows in almost every industry.

ArcGIS connects maps, apps, data, and people in ways that help empower organizations to make data-driven decisions more efficiently. ArcGIS accomplishes this by making it easy for everyone in an organization to discover, use, make, and share maps from any device, anywhere, at any time. ArcGIS is designed to be flexible, offering these capabilities through multiple implementation patterns and approaches. Together, these capabilities and flexible approaches make it easier for you to extend the reach of GIS across your entire organization.

Organizations typically implement ArcGIS within their enterprise system portfolio in one of three ways:

Three ways to implement ArcGIS

  1. As a single, multi-purpose GIS system that supports a variety of user needs and workflows and delivers a wide range of enterprise services.
  2. As a collection of GIS systems, each of which delivers a focused set of capabilities to the enterprise. This may include systems of record for managing different types of data, systems of insights for empowering data scientists and other users with a variety of analytic capabilities, and systems of engagement for delivering location services, enterprise applications, and self-service capabilities.
  3. Using ArcGIS to extend and enable existing business systems, such as Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, with location, mapping, and spatial analysis capabilities.

Geographic information systems (GIS), as compared to other information technology systems, typically plays a unique role in an organization by integrating data and workflows from across the enterprise. This integration of data and workflows is made possible through the use of location. The majority of data has an inherent location component and can therefore be used as a key to link and understand otherwise unrelated datasets. GIS has its own information models that allow the flexibility in connecting to and spatially enabling existing enterprise data and informational assets.

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ArcGIS is a complete GIS that can deliver value in just about every industry and organization. ArcGIS has several broad characteristics that are important to understand.

Cloud-based GIS software

ArcGIS is cloud-based, available as software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software that can be self-hosted on public or private cloud environments.

Self-hosted deployments of ArcGIS are possible using a cloud-native architecture, based on Kubernetes, in multiple public and private cloud environments. Also available are deployment options using Windows or Linux-based virtual machines which are supported in any cloud environment that provides VMs that meet the system requirements. Esri provides specialized tooling to deploy ArcGIS software on Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure cloud environments.

ArcGIS software can also run in private cloud environments and traditional on-premises data centers using Windows Server and several popular Linux and Kubernetes distributions.

Secure, reliable, enterprise-ready

ArcGIS provides secure, reliable, and enterprise-ready software. ArcGIS is designed from the ground up with security, privacy, and compliance in mind, leveraging a secure development life cycle, support for standards and specifications, as well as integration with common IT security systems and infrastructure. ArcGIS is also designed for reliable operations, providing deployment models with predefined SLAs, the ability to control uptime, and ultimately deliver the level of continuity the business demands. Learn more at the ArcGIS Trust Center and in the architecture pillars section of the ArcGIS Well-Architected Framework.

Services and standards-based architecture

ArcGIS is designed and built on a web services architecture. REST (Representational State Transfer) web services are used throughout ArcGIS, enforcing transparency, security, and interoperability. A variety of REST services are available across ArcGIS, representing different types of content such as maps, scenes, geoprocessing tools, geodatabases, and imagery. ArcGIS also supports open standards and specifications. ArcGIS supports reading and writing standard common data file types and international standard data formats through Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) web services. Learn more about the architecture of ArcGIS.

Flexible deployment options

ArcGIS supports several deployment approaches that can be suited to your organization’s needs. ArcGIS can be deployed as server software on a public cloud or within a private data center. ArcGIS provides secure and private software as a service (SaaS) as well as platform as a service (PaaS) offerings. The flexible deployment models allow organizations to select the model that best suits their business requirements. Deployments models should not be considered functionally equivalent as they are not different deployments of the same technology. Organizations will often use multiple deployment models based on their data and workflows. Learn more about ArcGIS products and deployment options.

Integrates with business and IT systems

Location allows ArcGIS to integrate data and workflows from across the enterprise. ArcGIS supports a broad range of enterprise integration options that can power, extend, or enrich other information systems such as EAMs, CRMs and ERPs. Additionally, Esri business partners provide integration options for many 3rd party systems. Developer APIs, tools, and location services can be used if there is no available integration option. Learn more about integration with ArcGIS.

Delivers a full range of geospatial capabilities

The power of ArcGIS comes from the broad set of geospatial capabilities it provides. From a basic map of locations to a sophisticated custom web application providing a unique competitive advantage, ArcGIS supports users visualizing, collecting, editing, analyzing, and managing multiple types of 2D, 3D, and 4D spatial data. ArcGIS supports a variety of field operations scenarios as well, including connected and disconnected environments. Learn more about the capabilities of ArcGIS.

Highly configurable (no-code, low-code)

Low-code and no-code app builders allow ArcGIS to be highly configurable. ArcGIS supports the deployment of web apps through templates and intuitive drag and drop interfaces. Out of the box templates support common tasks and industry workflows. Additionally, spatial analysis and processing can be performed through configurable ArcGIS modeling and scripting tools. ArcGIS contains hundreds of configurable tools that enable a broad range of analysis and work, from data management to deep learning analysis.

Extensible and automatable

ArcGIS applications and templates are built on published APIs and SDKs, which you can use to both develop your own applications and extend ArcGIS with new features and functions. The ArcGIS approach to extensibility allows a large partner community to build apps and solutions on top of ArcGIS, many of which are available through the ArcGIS Marketplace. In addition, ArcGIS provides a wide range of tools for automation of spatial and administration tasks and supports system and infrastructure automation through Chef cookbooks, Powershell DSC, ArcGIS API for Python, and more. Learn more about developing with ArcGIS products.

Continue to learn about the capabilities of ArcGIS.

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