City of Portland's GIS Hub Provides Enterprise Data Sharing

By Rick Schulte, GIS Manager, City of Portland, Oregon; and Graham Morgan, Solutions Architect, and Bart Elliott, Vice President, Public Sector Sales West, Convergent Group

The City of Portland, Oregon's solution to the problem of sharing data between a "rich mix" of GIS systems is the Enterprise Hub (GIS Hub). The GIS Hub provides for applications and data sharing between City bureaus, regional agencies, a view of Portland, Oregonand the public—all of whom are currently using a wide variety of GIS and database software platforms and products. The GIS Hub makes the diversity of underlying systems transparent to the user. The GIS Hub project also saves Portland money through improved processes and the elimination of redundancy.

From the casual user's perspective, the GIS Hub is a Web site that serves all enterprise data for the City and the surrounding metro areas/jurisdictions. Users are able to browse the data online and to issue queries against it. The GIS Hub site also provides the capability to extract data in a variety of spatial and aspatial formats.

The Hub Process

The Hub process

"The advantages of bringing together our different systems that use geographically referenced data are enormous," said Mitch Vanderperren, the City of Portland's GIS Hub project manager. "The GIS Hub will help staff in our bureaus to be more responsive to our customers—the individuals and Businesses that depend on City services."

The GIS Hub has been utilized in a variety of ways. For example, the GIS Hub is integrated with building permitting functions, allowing users to quickly access site maps, street layouts, development plans and other jurisdictions' databases. Additionally, more casual users of the GIS Hub are able to use applications that permit them to get data that wasn't available before through the City's incompatible databases. Projects, such as map development, are now being more easily created through information sharing on the GIS Hub.

Among the built-in features are (1) e-mailed notification when user data extracts are ready for download and (2) a hyperlink within the e-mail message that activates a file download program. This enables the user to transfer the extract file from the server to the location of their choice. The data may then be imported into a proprietary spatial data system and used natively. This approach enables all jurisdictions to directly use all enterprise data without the need to change their spatial data platforms.

A Rich Mix of Vendor Technologies

The GIS Hub stores enterprise data within an ArcSDE-enabled database hosted by Microsoft's SQL Server. SAFE Software's Feature Manipulation Engine (FME) provides spatial data translation services to translate source data into the GIS Hub and translates GIS Hub data into the many extract formats supported by the GIS Hub.

The City contracted with Denver, Colorado-based Convergent Group, a spatial solutions integrator and Esri Business partner, to work in partnership to engineer and build a system. To provide cost effectiveness, the GIS Hub was created with commercially available software as opposed to custom development. While some custom development was warranted, the GIS Hub was truly an integration effort.

GeoNorth's MapOptix Internet Map Server (see "Oregon Local Governments Adopt Fast, Flexible Data Publishing") was configured to serve the GIS Hub data and functionality to the Internet for casual user access. the City's MapWorks screen shotUsers can also access the GIS Hub through the City's MapWorks application (pictured at right) that provides extensive query capabilities and applications. In addition, any of the Esri clients can be used to access GIS Hub data.

The GIS Hub gives data providers the autonomy to refresh their data contributions to the GIS Hub at will. The GIS Hub data load process accepts data in whatever format the bureaus maintain it, then translates and transforms it into the GIS Hub.

Data Replication

Data replication is a cornerstone of the Hub architecture that required significant investigation of ArcSDE before it could be accomplished in all its flavors. Data replication provides a number of advantages including local repositories for main user groups, salability through additional database servers, and availability through the use of load balancing software that automatically distributes requests based on the available databases and their workload. The lessons learned during this part of the project have been fed back to the ArcSDE development team at Esri in an effort to facilitate the support of replication in later releases of ArcSDE.

The platform that has been selected by the City is ArcInfo 8, running on ArcSDE. Throughout the migration to ArcInfo 8, the GIS Hub will provide a central source for all enterprise data, giving the City breathing space in which to implement the single platform.

For additional information, contact Bart Elliott at Convergent Group (tel.: 303-741-8400, e-mail:, Web:

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