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Spring 2004
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Enabling the IT Enterprise With GIS Functionality

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This enterprise application integration (EAI) solution is a server technology that can spatially enable the enterprise and provide non-GIS systems and applications with GIS functionality. Systems can easily access GIS functionality, and GIS applications can easily access functionality and data provided by other systems.

Many GIS organizations are undergoing significant changes. GIS departments are being consolidated and, in some cases, absorbed into information technology (IT) or management information system (MIS) departments. Reductions in staff are also being noticed because of consolidation or other economic pressures. These changes are further compounded by the rapid changes in technology as well as advancements in development software. The ability to absorb and apply this technology has been difficult. This is particularly due to the investment in legacy applications, limitations of third party application software, and the cultural resistance to change.

One way to solve these challenges would be to add a GIS component to the IT enterprise environments of organizations. To accomplish this, there would need to be a GIS enterprise application server that implements GIS business logic in an IT standards-based server environment. This new server would need to add new information visualization and analytical capabilities to existing enterprise applications significantly enhancing business decision processes within many organizations. This means that organizations would be able to utilize their corporate information assets more effectively through new and innovative techniques that exploit the locational context of their existing data. This new server technology would give organizations the power to build shared server applications that would deliver highly focused GIS applications. This technology would open up a whole new type of enterprise GIS implementation that would provide centralized application support and data management.

Yet this is only one aspect of an ideal solution for GIS programs facing economic, organizational, and technological changes. There would also need to be an application to insulate the user/developer from the configuration and administrative tasks associated with implementing this new spatially enabled enterprise server technology. This new application would need to minimize end user development by providing a rich, yet extensible set of functionalityaccessible through either an intuitive user interface or through more traditional bulk processing and transaction-based requests. Developers would not need to be extensively familiar with GIS to leverage the functionality.

The Solutions Are Here

Esri is introducing ArcGIS Server, which adheres to IT standards, providing maximum interoperability and compatibility with enterprise architectures using any of a variety of popular programming languages, development environments, commercial application servers, and database management systems (DBMSs). ArcGIS Server provides server-based GIS functionality that includes mapping, geocoding, spatial queries, editing, tracing, and high-end analysis. Examples of applications that developers can build for end users who do not have a desktop GIS include facility network modeling, property management, land records, forest management, transportation monitoring, customer service, geomarketing, logistics planning, and dozens of others.

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Many application developers will appreciate the ease and convenience of integrating GIS functionality using this EAI.

In addition, GeoNorth, a longtime Esri Business Partner headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska, has developed GeoClarity, which is built with ArcGIS Server functionality and is an enterprise integration server technology that can spatially enable the enterprise and provide non-GIS systems and applications with GIS functionality. ArcGIS Server provides GIS capabilities, such as mapping, geocoding, spatial queries, and analysis, by exposing business logic that in the past has been reserved to desktop systems. GeoClarity, an enterprise application integration (EAI) solution, allows non-GIS systems to communicate with ArcGIS, and with each other, providing true enterprise integration. Systems can easily access GIS functionality, and GIS applications can easily access functionality and data provided by other systems. For example, many traditional applications, such as permitting, tax assessment, records management, maintenance management, or enterprise resource planning systems, can now include rich GIS functionality for purposes of investigation, validation, analysis, or mapping.

Indeed, over the last year extensive testing has proven that GeoClarity can hold up in large organizations. Simulating a large city's business operations, it was used to drive the Internet mapping site; determine geocriteria for a building permit system; perform simple spatial data editing and updates, complex iterative geocoding validation for police department business systems, and crime incident mapping and analysis; determine geocriteria based on geocode operations for assessing business licenses fees; perform tabular data transformation for PDA-based applications; and provide geocoding and proximity analysis for a car pool program. Recent trials and previews of this technology in selected large metropolitan organizations (more than 750,000 population) have been very successful.

Integrating Non-GIS Applications

Perhaps a larger benefit is that GeoClarity functions can easily integrate non-GIS applications. For example, a permit system using an Oracle relational database management system developed with PowerBuilder software can communicate with a .NET-based tax assessment system to determine first if a permit applicant has paid their tax bill, and then if the property is within a certain distance of a floodplain or wetland, which would in turn determine the permit process and fees.

Another example would be an AS/400 customer billing system being able to request and package tabular and spatial information from a PeopleSoft customer relationship management system and ArcSDE. The ability to rapidly GIS enable current business systems and applications have complimentary software vendors excited about being able to easily leverage ArcGIS technology.

Reggie Wilbanks, the chief architect of GeoClarity, expects that many application developers will appreciate the ease and convenience of integrating GIS functionality. This solution makes it easy to incorporate geospatial data, represent multiple servers as well as incorporate functions, and perform testing. He says, "This is an answer for organizations facing challenges such as economic, organizational, and technological changes. It's these changes that make enterprise GIS more attractive and in some cases a necessity."

According to Wilbanks, "The SQL language approach to formulating requests, coupled with its function prototyping and IntelliSense syntax checker, makes it easy to develop simple or complex requests that can be called from external applications to return XML, a map image, or any of the other output flavors currently provided or optionally developed by the end user."

Developers looking to extend GeoClarity can use the SDK Enterprise Edition. With a simple reference in an XML configuration file, the service automatically becomes aware of new functionality and is then immediately available to Web or desktop application developers looking to extend an application's functionality or broker information between two or more applications.

For more information, contact Marshall Payne, GeoNorth (tel.: 503-827-0827, e-mail: mpayne@geonorth.com).

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