The Integration of ArcInfo and ArcSDE: A True Enterprise GIS Solution

Over the past several years, Esri has been developing and offering SDE software technology for enabling spatial data management within standard DBMS technology.

chart showing 4 kinds of DBMSs with the geometry storage and DBMS type for each of those

This technology has been popular within both the GIS and IT/IS communities because it provides very fast access to very large spatial databases for a large number of users, at the same time maintaining the spatial data using standard DBMS technology. Initially, Esri offered SDE as an independent spatial database server primarily focused on storage and retrieval of spatial features inside a DBMS. Most users who initially acquired SDE deployed it as a tool to serve spatial data to mission critical applications. This enabled widespread multiuser access in an open environment that fully integrated standard DBMS technology.

With the release of ArcInfo 8, Esri has reengineered and integrated the SDE technology to be an integral part of ArcInfo. What this means is that ArcInfo users will have an open and integrated gateway solution between their GIS applications and any DBMS.

ArcInfo 8 is fully integrated with DBMS technology; this means better data management for GIS users and offers

  1. The ability to use a DBMS to manage the organization's spatial data holdings, providing GIS users with the traditional advantages of a DBMS
  2. An open GIS gateway that directly uses and exploits the best spatial data management solutions provided by each DBMS vendor
  3. A standards-based approach for managing GIS data in a DBMS that is consistent with the IT community
  4. A way to efficiently serve GIS data sets to a large number of users
  5. GIS technology for the IT community for helping to spatially-enable Business data within a traditional DBMS

ArcInfo 8 uses the DBMS to directly manage spatial data using any of the three OGC standards (i.e., normalized tables, binary objects, as well as spatial types). Esri has worked closely with each DBMS vendor to ensure that ArcInfo 8 takes advantage of the best DBMS and object-relational technology solutions provided by each DBMS company. This includes advanced support for the Oracle8i Spatial extension provided by Oracle. Esri also supports solutions for Microsoft's SQL Server, Informix, and IBM's DB2.

ArcInfo 8 and DBMS Integration

Esri is committed to directly and openly support the best solutions provided by each DBMS vendor for spatial data management. We will work closely with these companies to ensure that our GIS solutions take full advantage of new DBMS advances as they are added.

Version 8 integrates ArcInfo with any DBMS using the ArcSDE multi-user/multi-DBMS gateway.

ArcSDE 8 openly supports an efficient gateway between all Esri software products (ArcInfo, ArcView GIS, MapObjects, ArcExplorer, and ArcIMS) and spatial data managed in any supported DBMS.

The Integration

ArcInfo 8 introduces several key integration technologies in ArcInfo and ArcSDE:

  • While ArcInfo 8 will continue to support coverages and shapefiles, the ArcInfo/ArcSDE technology has been significantly enhanced to directly support geographic data storage inside a DBMS. In ArcInfo 8, a geographic database inside of a DBMS is called a geodatabase. It includes support for both simple geometric features as objects (points, lines, and polygons) as well as user-definable features (custom objects). In addition, geodatabases can store and manage CAD data, raster data, and tabular (SQL) data within a single integrated environment using standard DBMS data types.
  • ArcInfo software's ArcMap and ArcCatalog applications are designed to work directly with data inside a geodatabase.

    Specifically, ArcMap can directly map, query, analyze, and edit data maintained in a geodatabase. ArcMap supports full version management of long transactions in a multiuser map editing environment. For example, you can directly edit and manage spatial data with Oracle8i Spatial.

    The ArcCatalog application has many tools for designing, creating, and browsing geodatabases. ArcCatalog also supports full integration with open visual CASE tools such as Visio Enterprise for designing complex data models. For example, you can define the schema for your geodatabase that will be managed in the Oracle DBMS. ArcCatalog is also the tool used to build and view metadata about all data sets including those maintained in the geodatabase.
  • The ArcSDE gateway integrates ArcInfo and the DBMS. This adds DBMS into the GIS, providing the ability to directly manage spatial data inside the DBMS.

Existing SDE Users

Existing SDE users will automatically be given a copy of ArcInfo 8 as part of their ArcSDE 8 upgrade package. This will include the full functionality of SDE and a full copy of ArcInfo for managing geodatabases.

Why Did Esri Integrate ArcInfo and SDE?

For ArcInfo users, this allows GIS data sets to be better managed using standard DBMS technology. The results will provide better multiuser GIS environments. For SDE users there are also substantial benefits. The last six years of experience have shown us that SDE users (people spatially enabling their DBMS) typically need GIS functionality to create, load, and manage their spatial data. They also need mapping and spatial applications to use this data. It is not enough to simply provide a technology to load, index, and serve spatial data. ArcInfo will also provide a valuable GIS toolbox for Oracle Spatial users.

By integrating GIS with DBMS, Esri is providing a complete solution including

  • Mapping and spatial analysis tools for leveraging DBMSs (i.e., thousands of tools and developer components known as ArcObjects as well as end user applications--ArcMap, ArcCatalog, and ArcToolbox).
  • Complete development environment. ArcInfo 8 is component based. The set of components that make up the system, named ArcObjects, is delivered with ArcInfo 8 and provides organizations with a complete and extensible developer environment for custom mapping and geoprocessing applications. Functions include vector geometry processing, image manipulation, mapping, and all the spatial analysis tools that have distinguished ArcInfo for nearly 20 years.
  • ArcToolbox with more than 150 spatial tools for data creation, modeling, and geoprocessing.
  • Data conversion to and from any spatial type (vector, raster, CAD, etc.) in virtually any format (more than 60 formats supported), transformation, map projection, and automated topology generation.
  • Database design tools for spatial data modeling within a DBMS environment, including full integration with visual CASE tools.
  • Spatial data editing and management tools including a complete long transaction/version management utility for multiuser editing.
  • A DBMS with all of its powerful, well-known data management benefits.
  • Complete, open, and compliant simple feature access to all the contents of the geodatabase. ArcInfo 8 and ArcSDE 8 deliver OGC-compliant interfaces.


We believe that a DBMS is very important for managing the data of a GIS, and a GIS is needed to create and manage the spatial data maintained in any spatially enabled DBMS. ArcInfo 8 is the world's leading GIS technology for creating, converting, manipulating, and using geospatial data. This, integrated with standard DBMS software, will bring the GIS and IT worlds together.

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