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Reliant Energy Implements Enterprise ArcInfo 8 Solution
In the past year, Reliant Energy has been working closely with Esri and Miner and Miner, Consulting Engineers, Inc., to develop and deploy a complete ArcInfo 8 solution for their gas and electric energy delivery units. The May rollout of ArcFM Energy at Reliant Energy HL&P and Reliant Energy Entex represented the first large-scale implementation of this exciting new technology at a gas and electric utility.
The project's primary focus has been to consolidate and standardize on a single GIS solution throughout the entire Reliant Energy organization. The domestic energy delivery companies at Reliant Energy include three gas companies and one electric company. In the metropolitan Houston region, Reliant Energy HL&P provides electric service to 1.6 million customers. Reliant Energy Entex provides gas service to 1.4 million customers in metro Houston and neighboring areas in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Reliant Energy Arkla serves 730,000 customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Reliant Energy Minnegasco serves 660,000 gas customers in Minnesota. By consolidating on a single geodatabase model and suite of applications to be used across the companies, Reliant Energy will realize significant cost savings in data maintenance, training, and application development.
Geodatabase Design and Application Development
The database design tasks started with a review of the ArcFM Energy model templates. These templates, defined using the Unified Modeling Language (UML) and documented with Visio's off-the-shelf CASE tools, are an integral part of the ArcFM Energy product developed by Miner and Miner, based in Fort Collins, Colorado. Representatives from each of the Reliant Energy Business units participated in a series of meetings to extend the templates and consolidate the data model requirements across the companies. The definition of attribute domains, connectivity rules, and other data validation parameters were an important part of defining the Reliant Energy geodatabase. The end result was a common schema for modeling gas, electric, and land base facilities across the Reliant Energy companies.
The consolidation and definition of the application requirements were done in parallel with the database design. Although many of the requirements were met with out-of-the-box ArcInfo 8 and ArcFM Energy functionality, a number of custom components were developed specifically for Reliant Energy. The Component Object Model (COM) architecture of ArcMap and ArcCatalog allowed the Miner and Miner development team to extend the existing functionality using Visual Basic and Visual C++. "We had to balance the needs of mature GIS users with an aggressive project schedule in order to gain benefits quickly from a consolidated GIS," says Jeff Myerson, Manager of GIS for Reliant Energy. "I am proud of the teamwork exhibited by participants from four Reliant Energy Business units, together with Esri and Miner and Miner."
According to Matt Crowder, the lead Miner and Miner programmer on the Reliant Energy project, "One of the great things about Esri's implementation of the COM technology is that a third party developer can swap out or add new functionality to ArcMap at the same level as an Esri developer." For example, Reliant Energy requires that certain users be restricted from accessing particular tools. While a cathodic protection engineer may be required to maintain the CP network, they may not be authorized to run the land base editing tools. By swapping out the Esri authorization framework with a custom application start-up component, the user can be required to enter a user name and password when starting the application. The user name can then determine which components are made available through the GUI. By implementing this custom authorization framework, Reliant Energy is able to restrict access to particular components based on their Business requirements.
Reliant Energy HL&P is converting their existing ArcInfo 7.x map library, while the three gas companies are converting their existing data from a proprietary data format (Smallworld) into an Oracle database accessed by Esri's gateway technology, ArcSDE. The process for loading the map data at HL&P involves extraction from a tiled database into seamless ArcInfo coverages. Coverage data are then loaded into the geodatabase schema in Oracle using the data loading tools provided within ArcCatalog. At the gas companies, a similar work flow has been defined, but the data is first extracted from its native format using Safe Software's FME product.
The electric and gas data for metro Houston will be stored on a central server in downtown Houston. The metro Houston ArcSDE data server configuration consists of a Sun Enterprise 4500 with 10 400 MHz processors and 5 GB of RAM. Data for Reliant Energy Entex will also be stored on a central server in downtown Houston. A Compaq 6500R with four 500 MHz processors and 4 GB of RAM will be used for this data.
At Reliant Energy, there are more than 200 users editing the data, with another 700 users using the data for view and query purposes. The client platform for editors working in downtown Houston is a Compaq Pentium III 500, with 256 MB of RAM. The district offices responsible for the service areas outside of downtown Houston, including Louisiana and Mississippi, will update and maintain the data on the central data server using Citrix terminal server technology. The Citrix application servers will consist of three PIII Xeon machines, each with four 500 MHz processors. At the same time, a replicated copy of the Reliant Energy Entex database will be located at each of the four division offices, and a replicated copy of the Reliant Energy HL&P database will be located at the distribution dispatching center in South Houston. Reliant Energy is using Lakeview Technology's Omnireplicator software to manage the replication of the Oracle-based geodatabase. These read-only databases will be used for querying, dispatching, plotting, and emergency backup purposes.
At Reliant Energy Minnegasco there will be 33 editors and 57 view and query users accessing 10,000 miles of gas mains covering their 9,200-square-mile service area. Reliant Energy Arkla plans to support six editors and 20 view and query seats. Reliant Energy Minnegasco will be serving their data from a Pentium III Xeon server with four 500 MHz processors, while Reliant Energy Arkla plans to roll out on a PII Xeon with four 400 MHz processors and 1 GB RAM.
The May rollout of the ArcInfo 8 environment at Reliant Energy HL&P and Reliant Energy Entex was timed to dovetail with Reliant Energy's SAP R/3 rollout. With both systems coming online within a month of each other, the deployment of the GIS has been very carefully planned. Reliant Energy began training their users in the use of ArcInfo 8 technology in February 2000. Incremental exposure to the new tools, using a work flow-based approach, has enabled the users to learn the new system quickly. ArcMap software's Windows-based graphical user interface has made the adoption of the new technology quick and intuitive, since most users at Reliant Energy are already familiar with other Windows-based applications.
The Reliant Energy Minnegasco and Arkla's ArcInfo 8 rollout is scheduled for first quarter 2001.