The County of San Diego is one of the most award-winning and innovative government agencies in the United States (County of San Diego, 2020). With this in mind, it is not surprising that their most recent GIS upgrade had a strong vision of providing better public access to GIS data via open data collaboration using ArcGIS Enterprise.
The effort to upgrade the County’s GIS system to ArcGIS Enterprise was led by the County’s GIS Manager, Ross Martin. From his perspective, “The pursuit of open data, transparency, and collaboration in the GIS world is a rather large undertaking technology wise. If you don’t get ahead of it the risk of falling behind is too great.”
The primary intent of the upgrade from ArcGIS 10.2.2 to ArcGIS Enterprise was the potential for better regional collaboration and the sharing of hosted GIS data via Portal-to-Portal collaboration groups. This included the desire to closely integrate with one of the County’s primary data providers, SanGIS.
The San Diego Geographic Information Source (SanGIS) is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego responsible for maintaining a regional geographic information system (GIS) landbase and data warehouse (SanGIS, 2020). To enable a close linkage, the County wanted the ability to interface their on-premise GIS data with an enterprise environment hosted by SanGIS.
“We needed a solution that would allow us easy and secure access to our enterprise environment combined with the capability of sharing our data across agencies,"Ross Martin
For this, there was no better solution than ArcGIS Enterprise to get the job done.
The new enterprise environment for GIS was implemented by the County of San Diego’s IT vendor, Perspecta in partnership with Quartic Solutions. To ensure County operations are available 24/7 the system was designed with high-availability, security, and ease of access as essential features.
“The best system is one that I can turn my back on,” explains Roberto Rivera, application architect for the project. To build a trustworthy system it was important that all of the network and hardware components had failover and redundancy place. This also required ensuring that these components could integrate properly with the ArcGIS Enterprise platform.
Quartic Solutions worked closely with the Perspecta team to ensure that the design leveraged all of the powerful features of the ArcGIS platform in regards to high-availability, data collaboration, and single-sign on (SSO) functionality. The next section details some of the design and technical considerations required to achieve these three goals.
Building a high-availability, multi-machine ArcGIS Enterprise required that the County’s third-party load balancer utilize application health checks for monitoring the uptime of Portal for ArcGIS and ArcGIS for Server. By default, ArcGIS Enterprise provides endpoints for detecting an outage of one or more ArcGIS components. Without this feature, a third-party load balancer may detect that a server is up without validating the health of ArcGIS. It was an essential feature that ensured that ArcGIS Enterprise could continue functioning in the event of a partial outage.
An equally important feature was the ability to provide a seamless single-sign on (SSO) experience for users that leveraged the County’s existing AD Federation Services implementation. Portal for ArcGIS offered a straight forward integration with ADFS with minimal configuration required. This functionality ensured that all County users could access the Portal from anywhere and without the need to type a password each time.
The ability for the County to connect to Portal organizations outside of their agency was crucial. For that reason, extra care and attention was put into ensuring that the Portal could function both internally and externally to their firewall. This also allowed for the ability to migrate their content from ArcGIS Online to Portal using Esri’s ArcGIS Online Assistant which allows users to search for and copy content from AGO to Portal. This tool was essential for streamlining their transition from AGO to Portal.