Virtual Earth and ESRI Data

One of the questions I get asked about like clockwork when I do Virtual Earth programming sessions to government customers is “How do I get my ‘ESRI data’ onto the map?”  I always caveat that I don’t know much about ESRI products.  I then tell people that Virtual Earth is a platform visualization of data on a map.  It is not tied to and does not dictate the data you visualize.  I always tell people that if you have the data and can expose it to the client, then you can use the APIs in the v4 Map Control to create your own tiles, draw lines, polygons, routes, pushpins, etc.

None of this really answers exactly HOW to do this.  I usually recommend exposing the data through ASP.NET Web Services and using ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 to make them callable from JavaScript (see tutorial and video for more details).  This makes it really easy to get the data from the server and then use the v4 Map Control to visualize it.

As I understand it, this can still be quite a bit of work to ultimately surface your “ESRI data.”  I recently learned that a Microsoft partner, ISC Consulting, has a product (built on ASP.NET AJAX 1.0) called MapDotNet Server 2007 which makes this task much easier.  Coincidently, the Virtual Earth for Government blog just posted a Virtual Earth for Zoning Applications entry which talks about this as well.

DISCLAIMER: I have never used MapDotNet Server 2007, nor do I have any existing relationship with ISC Consulting.  This is not an endorsement of their product.


Comments (5)

  1. Brian Howden says:

    The other approach is you can render your ESRI data with arcIMS and use the WMS connector option to expose your data as rendered bit maps.  VE (in 3D mode only) can consume it’s images from a WMS server so voila, all your ESRI data in 3D VE.  One major down side is that the WMS is configured with a static config file so you cannot dynamically turn layers on and off.  The other approach would be something like MMS (an open source wms map server).


  2. Dave says:

    I whipped this sample up a long time ago (need to update it for v4):

  3. Dave Smith says:

    Hate to tell ya this, but "ESRI Data" (surrounding it in quotes to make it sound alien and strange) is still one of the most predominant formats out there for mapping data.  Not something you can just shrug off.

    WMS services render image tiles, which you may or may not be able to overlay and still have a readable map – and that’s a simple enough call with or without VE.  The ideal would be to insert the vector data – most ideally through direct, native support of WFS and the ESRI formats, such as shapefile and geodatabase – along with the appropriate rendering controls to allow good visualization.

    That would be a real winner.

  4. Reid Watkins says:

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time in recent weeks expirementing with various methods for displaying our ESRI data in virtual earth.  There are three general approaches that I’m aware of:

    1. Translate vector data to VE points, lines, and polylines.

    2. Dynamically render tiles to overlay on VE in real time.

    3. Pre-render custom VE tiles.

    It is my opinion that for anything other than simple pushpins, prerendered tiles are the prefered option for maintaining the elegance and performance that users have come to expect in modern online mapping applications.  Rendering complex shapefiles or geodatabases in realtime just doesn’t cut the mustard.

  5. Nate Irwin says:

    Reid, if you don’t mind me asking: what were you dynamically rendering the tiles with?