December 22, 2003
An Enterprise Approach to GIS Data
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor


Welcome to GISWeekly! This week's Industry News features an article on new client-server-datastore architecture from Any*GIS, which takes advantage of the Autodesk desktop and focuses on the enterprise.


This issue of GISWeekly will be the last one you'll see this year. The first issue for the New Year will be mailed out the night of January 12, 2004. The last daily GISCafe newsletter for 2003 will be mailed on the night of December 23rd. The first daily GISCafe newsletter of the New Year will be mailed the night of January 1st.


GISCafe and GISWeekly would like to extend to you and your families a very joyous holiday season, and a prosperous New Year. We are thankful for this opportunity to be able to bring GIS news to you in this format on a daily/weekly basis and look forward to providing more news and commentary in the coming year.


In parting, don't eat too much, don't spend too much and take some time to be glad for the blessings bestowed upon you. Rest assured that I'll be trying to do the same.


GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Alliances/Acquisitions, Announcements, New Products, Going on Around the Web, and Calendar.


GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at


Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor



Industry News

An Enterprise Approach to GIS Data

By Susan Smith


Hitachi Software, a long-time Autodesk partner that I spoke with at Autodesk University, is also addressing the issue of interoperability. Part of their family of products, their new client-server-datastore architecture product, CAD Client, offers integration with GIS databases using the AutoCAD desktop. The Any*GIS product features include read and write capabilities from ESRI, GE Smallworld, Intergraph, MapInfo and shapefiles, as well as a spatial information module for creating and editing topologies for landbase applications, ability to publish maps over the web, and to run reports, conduct thematic mapping, and plotting, among other features.


According to Rob Carroll, Hitachi developed a concept called GeoAdapter, developed with OpenGIS standards, using the feature specification set from OGC in 2000. “The big problem at that time was that we were one of the only products on the market that had that format support,” said Carroll. “We looked at the market and saw that there was a lot of legacy data out there on systems that will be very difficult for people to move off of because they've spent a lot of money and effort to get to that point. Moving to another platform disrupts their workflow and their work systems that they've already developed, so what we decided to do is build a GeoAdapter. What it does is it
reads the native database
formats of SDE or Smallworld, DWG, DGN, the major GIS formats, transforms them to the simple feature OGC compliant objects. If we send that through our whole system, basically it makes a homogeneous object definition for the rest of the system below that. So what we're doing is transferring a point feature in a shapefile, basically an x,y coordinate and a string of properties on it. What we've done is transferred that from the format that ESRI has defined for that and transformed it to the point feature definition that is basically GML and pass that through our system.”


“GML is our transport's protocol. The GeoAdapter is our API that allows CAD Client to access any GIS data. We basically pass which features, or layers, the user is looking for to the GeoAdapter then the GeoAdapter handles the different systems' proprietary way of storing those and bringing back that information. It then transforms those objects into a GML string that then sends that down through our system. Below that, all of our system works in OpenGIS. It's very much an OBDC type of approach for GIS.


“The next thing about this is we treat each feature as an individual object. We also track, like in SDE, they have a certain way of storing the features with the feature ID. We can actually track that back to the original SDE feature, so say you have an area that you're extracting out of roads and power lines and power poles. If somebody were to go in and want to extend the power pole to a new office, they could add a new power pole and maybe move an existing one and then string line along. The new ones would be assigned as we update back to SDE to do SDE, would go back to the database, and the modified ones would be sent back as modified and any ones that were deleted would be sent
back as a
delete. So for example, if they only changed four objects, then they only sent back those four objects rather than the entire sample area.


What determines which file formats that you decide to support? I asked. “We looked at market saturation and it was really obvious that shapefiles, DWG, DXF, DGN were the first ones we supported. But really where the power of our system comes in is with the support of the real enterprise systems which are the SDEs, Oracle Spatials, the Smallworld databases which are much more difficult to interface with than a simple file format. We've actually bundled in a universal geoadapter which handles basically all of the major file formats, then we've written specific ones for specific needs. With DWG - there is a library used within the OpenDWG group and we're able to reuse that library, DGN
has an
open source library as well that's available to us. With Smallworld and SDE we have to use different tools to access their libraries. For SDE we're using ESRI's API to do that, we're well behaved within their environment.


“For others, like federal government formats, like DLGs, etc., we're using a file translator because it's a point to point translation rather than an interoperable translation. Those files are not meant for data storage but rather to move data back and forth. We basically just use it to load into Oracle or other databases.”


The CADClient prototype was developed last year. “We had problems with tracking what objects had changed and there wasn't a really easy way of doing that in AutoCAD, so we created a module that basically listens to the user as they're changing or inserting objects on layers that we have assigned,” explained Carroll. “We basically map a AutoCAD layer to what we call a data container from a GIS object, i.e., if you have a shapefile with poles we would map that to a layer called shapepoles on the AutoCAD client. When you do something to that layer it will automatically journal that so when you do an update you can go through and say these three objects are new, these are
deleted, modified, then back
those objects. Before, we were writing back all the objects we had extracted, including all the things that had been modified, so it wasn't a very effective thing to start with. This was the biggest retooling issue from version 1 to 3. We've had version 3.0 out for about two months now.”


I was under the impression that AutoCAD Map had some interoperability with other file formats of its own, and most particularly in its relationship with Oracle, Laser-Scan, Intergraph and MapInfo. “We were very careful in how we developed this product -- we didn't want to reinvent the wheel. AutoCAD has a very feature rich functionality set on the desktop for the drafting and GIS functions they've built on that,” Carroll said. “Right now they have tools to import shapefiles, DGN files, and four or five file formats. But where they really don't have strength is where they need to bring down enterprise GIS data, things like SDE, Smallworld or OpenGIS data sets. The way
we've differentiated ourselves
from Autodesk in the past is that they have a very strong mapping tool but the backend for enterprise GIS isn't there at the moment.”


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