Cutting Out the GIS Middleman: GE Energy Cements Relationship with Oracle to Build Enterprise Applications
In past editorials (1,
I've speculated about systems integrators being the next likely group
to embrace geospatial technology and begin to engage their clients with
location-based solutions. At the GITA Conference
in San Antonio, GE Energy announced
that it is developing applications with Oracle 10g Spatial technology.
While you may not think of GE as a systems integrator because of its
reliance on its Smallworld solution in the utility and
telecommunications marketplace, this announcement changes many things.
Speaking with several GE Energy executives at GITA, I learned that they
want to cut out the "GIS middleman" by leveraging as much functionality
in the Oracle Spatial stack as possible, to develop a "next generation"
of spatial solutions. In particular, they want to use the Network Data
Model (NMD) and Oracle's linear referencing system. In addition, GE
expects to take advantage of Oracle's Fusion Middleware to reach deeper
into the Oracle application stack for business intelligence. GE intends
to build thin client Java-based applications that would effectively
dive directly into Oracle. No GIS will be in the mid-tier, not even
GE executives won't try to encourage existing Smallworld clients to
migrate to these new applications. Still, they will acknowledge that
they are keenly aware of how pervasive Oracle technology is within
their existing client base. As such, executives want to make it easier
to address the needs of the IT departments that are now managing more
of the geospatial implementations, and perhaps spatially enable more
enterprise applications using Oracle Spatial and a services-oriented
GE Energy is in a unique position with utility customers. The company
not only supplies the geospatial software, but other hardware and
systems as well, including electrical transformers, billing and
metering. GE Energy controls a hardware and consulting relationship
with customers that might be characterized as monopolistic as well as
opportunistic. Supply customers with transformers and throw in the
network management piece as well. GE Energy's area of expertise is
electrical distribution and the company can develop end-to-end
solutions that would make it impossible for others to compete in that
However, GE likely sees that its Smallworld applications are
encountering resistance since they are solutions that do not
necessarily fit well in a standard IT environment like SOA. That's
where Oracle comes in. GE boasts that its new applications will be 100%
Oracle-based. GE Energy is not picking and choosing functionality; the
company will use it all. Hence, future Java applications are intended
to be very thin desktop clients. GE is using JDeveloper, a standard
development platform already within GE.
GE is careful to point out that this partnership with Oracle is an
effort to extend the Smallworld environment, which is primarily a
toolkit whereby GE partners develop applications. GE is now going to
deal directly with clients and productize the interface.
GE has not decided on how to brand the new solutions. Most likely it
will try to separate the new applications from the Smallworld moniker.
However, GE is picking a huge battle with other GIS solution providers
like ESRI and Intergraph in an effort to swipe business, as utilities
spend less time managing infrastructure and focus on launching new
applications for critical infrastructure protection and mobile field
service management. The deal with Oracle has been in the works for over
two years. The idea is to not have any GE middleware in the solution.
GE is focused on the electric utility client with approximately 500,000
to 700,000 connections. "There is a whole lot that utilities do with
spatial data but we're going to grow into that," said Robert Laudati,
GE's marketing manager. Future development may include advanced design
tools and additional integration APIs, plus a vision of developing
future markets in other utility domains as well as in
From Oracle's perspective, GE can become a very strategic partner
because of its reach inside large organizations. Further, GE is
leveraging more of the Oracle stack than some of the other GIS vendors
that have long-standing relationships with Oracle.