Is There a GIS in Your Database?

By Pierre Lavoie

From the moment the first commercial relational database was used in GIS, Oracle positioned itself as a leader in the field. People have since been continuously looking for more complete features in commercial GIS and GIS applications, in order to increase overall capability. Once we were able to store geometric data, indexing mechanisms and SQL extensions, we could undertake more complex commercial GIS problems. Indeed, it became possible to reach a much wider customer base, and to access more enterprise data. Based on the knowledge of the requirements manifested by its installed customer base, as well as by making alliances with some GIS companies, Oracle has strived to satisfy the needs of the geospatial community. In turn, the community has helped to improve the product.

Oracle Spatial is a product designed to manage location-based information within an Oracle database. It allows users and application developers to easily integrate important data within corporate decision making applications. Spatially referenced data were historically stored by proprietary file systems and specialized applications. Such partitioned architecture eliminated the combined potential of the geographic features along with their descriptive attributes. Easily integrating them made it possible to provide a way for companies to maximize input from their data, while minimizing costs. Indeed, this new storage paradigm is crucial in expanding the applications of geospatial information.

The use of one single mechanism for both localized data and business information provides access to the openness, reliability and performance made possible by the use of a relational database management system (RDBMS). Mission critical applications, spatially referenced data warehousing and business intelligence have leveraged access to geospatial information from one federated source. This new access to a more geographic perspective of enterprise information has allowed companies to become more location intelligent.

Through its partnerships with companies including Autodesk, Bentley, e-Spatial, ESRI, Intergraph, 1Spatial, MapInfo and Star Informatics, Oracle has come to be perceived as a key platform in the evolution of the GIS industry. Those companies understand that simplifying data management allows them to focus on their core competencies of analysis and design. Furthermore, features now standard in all versions of the database have gained the interest of new customers and new types of partners. And location-enabled business rules and application-logic can be applied to customer relationship management, asset management, marketing and sales applications

Oracle Spatial's support of topological data structures, as well as raster data management, in addition to the product's scalability and security features have made it a popular choice among information technology managers. These features are essential to the evolution and mass adoption of geospatial technologies, and have facilitated interoperability.

The vast majority of GIS application providers sell a product that is compliant and interoperable with the Oracle Spatial storage mechanism in order to store geometric data and their corresponding descriptive data. Many also take advantage of its specialized components such as Workspace Manager, GeoRaster and dynamic segmentation, benefiting from better access to data, parallelism, security mechanisms, complex views and geometric integrity, all from the database itself. Those organizations are interested in what Oracle has to offer because they can see the benefits of having just one centralized depot for spatial data, to which it is much easier to add business logic. It is true that they also benefit from a central data store.

It is becoming more and more natural to build applications using such data warehouses and to capitalize on the fact that you can add spatial criteria to any type of SQL request. In addition, formats such as XML and GML that are becoming popular facilitate the integration of that content into content-sharing applications and business portals. Such applications can be built in Java and take advantage of the available APIs, thus providing a more effective development environment in which to create vertical applications.

Many new applications are taking advantage of geospatial technology allowing decision makers better business insights to their operations. Business value will flow from a higher return for their technology dollars as organizations begin to reduce the time it takes to route vehicles, comprehend market potential, and find the highest and best use of land and its assets, just to name a few examples. It is a key step toward developing a location-enabled enterprise.

Ed. note: This article originally appeared in Directions français and was translated into English by our colleague Jean-Louis Duchesne.

Published Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Written by Pierre Lavoie

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