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Enterprise Geographic Information Servers: A New Information System Architecture

An ESRI ® White Paper • October 2003

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......................... GIS Subsystems ... Enterprise Geographic Information Servers .............................................J-9164 Enterprise Geographic Information Servers: A New Information System Architecture An ESRI White Paper Contents Introduction. Page 1 1 4 6 6 ESRI White Paper i ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ References......... Conclusion ...............................................................................

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GIS Subsystems ESRI White Paper . and data management. spatial analysis (geoprocessing). geographic information system (GIS) technology has been implemented using a variety of contemporary computer architectures (Coleman 1999). A new architecture is currently emerging based on some new technologies that allow all GIS functions to run in a centralized server environment and be accessed from any device on a network.J-9164 Enterprise Geographic Information Servers: A New Information System Architecture Introduction Throughout the course of the last 40 years. A useful. and now system designers are recommending Web-based technologies for distributed systems (Peng and Tsou 2003). then came workstations. GIS comprises three major subsystems that are concerned with mapping. next PCs. The earliest systems were built to run on mainframe and minicomputers. This white paper will describe this new enterprise geographic information server approach and its implications for building truly distributed enterprise GIS. general purpose GIS needs capabilities in all these areas.

the weaknesses of SQL as a geographic data access and programming language (Egenhofer 1982). they support multiuser editing of continuous geographic databases. etc. It is here that users will find projection and datum transformations. map to page transformations. and concerns about scalability for operations.Enterprise Geographic Information Servers: A New Information System Architecture J-9164 Mapping Spatial Analysis Data Management The Three Subsystems That Are Needed for a Well-Rounded GIS Platform The mapping subsystem deals with the manipulation and visualization of geographic information. etc. map displays. and Microsoft SQL Server™. and the framework for interacting with geographic data in the form of a map. 2003). Oracle®. to store and manage geographic information (Longley et al. export graphics. grid analysis (watershed modeling.). such as Microsoft® Access. two-dimensional and threedimensional visualization tools. etc. centralized data repository (avoiding redundancy and duplication). editing components. IBM® DB2®. and three-dimensional analysis (calculation of slope. However. they facilitate data sharing (by establishing de facto standards). The spatial analysis subsystem implements a series of geographic analysis functions for the two classic geographic operations of proximity and overlay analysis as well as functions for data conversion (import computer-aided design [CAD] data. aspect. symbology models. intervisibility analysis.). DBMS products have been widely used in GIS because they allow users to create a single. have October 2003 2 . the limited support for advanced geographic data types (Shekar and Chawla 2003).). and they allow users to employ DBMS backup and recovery tools. 2001). such as topology management (Hoel et al. In the past few years it has become common practice to use commercial off-the-shelf database management system (DBMS) products.

Presently. two computers (two-tier architecture). At the other extreme. cartographic compilation. can comprise several hundreds of megabytes of code (a so-called "thick" client implementation). The three GIS subsystems can be implemented on a single computer (single-tier architecture). it is expensive to maintain and update widely distributed PCs—especially if users cannot do it themselves. in recent years users have become dissatisfied with this type of architecture for less demanding tasks because the cost of client machines and software is prohibitive. three-dimensional modeling. In this type of configuration the client has sophisticated capabilities and. in advanced systems. almost without exception. they are usually spread across three separate machines (three-tier architecture). However. and spatial analysis. In a single-tier architecture the presentation (user interface). or in the case of large systems. the business logic for data access runs on a middle-tier application server. all the major GIS software systems have been developed to operate on desktop class personal computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system. business logic (geographic processing functions). in a three-tier situation the presentation tier (including the mapping and spatial analysis subsystems) runs as a client on a desktop PC. and it is difficult to maintain corporate standards throughout a widely dispersed organization. This configuration has served GIS users well for the last decade and will continue to do so for advanced GIS tasks such as editing.and Three-Tier Information System Architectures ESRI White Paper 3 . and data management functions all run on the same machine. Single Tier Three Tier Client Presentation Presentation Business Logic Data Management Application Server Business Logic Data Server Data Management Single.Enterprise Geographic Information Servers: A New Information System Architecture J-9164 instigated a reexamination of the role of DBMS in GIS and have prompted the development of enterprise geographic information servers. and the data management tier (DBMS) runs on a server.

Thin and Thick Clients Network Enterprise Geographic Information Server Server Manager Server Containers Enterprise Geographic Information Server Architecture Enterprise geographic information servers have a number of characteristics that make them ideal for serving the needs of distributed GIS users. or run multiple CPUs on the same machine. be spread over multiple machines (for scalability).. a Web server) and for allocating requests to server containers that perform the actual work. Low cost of maintenance. Running all the GIS components on a server means that a thin client can be used to initiate processing requests and display the results of GIS tasks. Because all data and processing capabilities are centralized in one location.Enterprise Geographic Information Servers: A New Information System Architecture J-9164 Enterprise Geographic Information Servers An alternate. The server object manager is responsible for interfacing with the network (e. The server containers obtain the data required to fulfill a task from a data server (a DBMS). They allow both thin (browser) and thick (desktop GIS) distributed clients to access data and processing capabilities over a standard local or wide area network. GIS servers can be installed alongside an organization's other servers.. more centralized architecture is emerging that addresses these issues.g. costs of upgrade and maintenance are minimized (e. The server itself has two parts. At the heart of this new architecture approach is the idea that the application server tier can be enhanced to encompass not only the data management GIS subsystem but also the mapping and spatial analysis subsystems. software updates do not need to be pushed out to hundreds of PCs). and the same information technology (IT) staff can be used to maintain both.g. Such centralized GIS implementations are now being referred to as enterprise geographic information servers. Both parts can run on the same CPU. October 2003 4 .

Standards-based access to data and processing. three-dimensional analysis. Moreover. survey measurements and computations. addresses. ESRI White Paper 5 . without taking the system down. spatial analysis. heads-up. Siebel®) systems are both examples of server-centric applications. Microsoft (Windows® Server). raster (spatial) analysis. Such standards offer a rich environment for communicating with an advanced application server and for building true enterprise applications. CAD. network analysis. and determining the shortest route for a vehicle between multiple home delivery stops. Typical tasks include creating a topographic map centered on a user-specified location. Support for all key GIS data types and functions. accessed over a network. and SAP™) and customer relationship management (Microsoft. The key standards that are supported include Extensible Markup Language/Simple Object Access Protocol (XML/SOAP) for messaging and data transfer over Web (http) network connections. geocoding. the resources required are not expensive stateof-the-art hardware components but widely available. Complex applications that require high interactive performance and extensive local processing power are not well suited to wide area network deployment and will continue to be implemented on dedicated local computer resources such as a desktop PC. a number of other application areas have also adopted this server implementation approach.NET for building local and wide area network enterprise applications. Enterprise geographic information servers are well suited to simple and medium complexity GIS tasks that can be undertaken on a remote server. annotation. dimensions.. and geoprocessing. lower cost. IBM (WebSphere).Enterprise Geographic Information Servers: A New Information System Architecture J-9164 Easy scalability. Adding additional resources can easily be achieved by installing new memory or disks in an existing server or by installing a new server. general purpose machines. and topologies. or changing the attributes of streetlights and road signage). networks. Enterprise geographic information servers are good examples of the new class of information systems called enterprise application servers.g. Pivotal®. Supported data types include twodimensional and three-dimensional vectors. at a user-specified scale. They all rely on and enhance the capabilities of DBMS by providing enterprise application development tools. Java™ for building local and wide area network enterprise applications. The list of functions includes a full range of mapping. enterprise geographic information servers support all common GIS data types and functions. This means that users of all types can access data and processing across a network from any location. PeopleSoft®. on-screen land parcel creation and boundary update. simple editing (e. attributes. and Oracle (Oracle Application Server). In order to address the widest range of users and applications. data management. Web service interfaces. network services. Enterprise resource planning (Oracle. editing. Similar general purpose systems have been developed by major vendors such as BEA (WebLogic). and scalability frameworks. In addition to GIS. A key factor that will encourage the uptake of enterprise geographic information servers is that they have open standardsbased application programming interfaces (APIs) that expose all the data and processing capabilities for use by developers. and data management tools such as topographic and thematic mapping. and . rasters.

application development. Applications.F.Enterprise Geographic Information Servers: A New Information System Architecture J-9164 Conclusion Enterprise geographic information servers are a new type of GIS architecture that supports access to potentially thousands of distributed users from a centralized location. Spatial Databases: A Tour. Volume 7. "Enterprise Geographic Information Servers.. Maguire. Shekar. Peng. S. Maguire. Issue 8. 2003." in Longley. Rhind. 2001. 1999.. The industry standards-based approach to data management. the low cost of maintenance. and Management. Morehouse. Geographic Information Systems and Science.J. "Geographical Information Systems in Networked Environments. Rhind. high scalability. 2003. "Why not SQL!" International Journal of Geographical Information Systems. Goodchild. Vol. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 16 pp. August 2003. Zhong–Ren and Ming–Hsiang Tsou. "Building a Robust Relational Implementation of Topology. and data and processing access makes them ideal for providing GIS services to a wide range of distributed users. 317–29.J.J. In the next few years many new GIS user organizations will build systems based on this new server-centric architecture.J.F. 6. Coleman. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. and excellent reliability means that organizations can create compelling business cases that demonstrate a good return on investment. P. New York: John Wiley & Sons. and S. Shashi and Sanjay Chawla. E." written by Dr." Proceeding of 8th International Symposium on Spatial and Temporal Databases. October 2003 6 ..W. Goodchild. Similarly. Hoel. and D. Hoboken. D.A. References Acknowledgement This white paper was created using the article. 71–85. David Maguire for the GIS Development magazine. and many existing user organizations will transition their system to it. D. Egenhofer. M. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.A. 1992. Techniques. Geographical Information Systems: Principles. Internet GIS: Distributed Geographic Information Services for the Internet and Wireless Networks. D. 2003.W.. Menon. Longley.. P. and D. M. M.