Here at Patrick Geospatial Services, we are tracking a lot of interest in the Utility Network technology, everything from “getting up to speed” to “getting up and running” to “I have no idea what’s going on here!” As with any major change, there are risks and there are opportunities. While the risks are manageable with proper planning, change management, and the right business partner, the opportunities are not always obvious. But they are out there. One key opportunity is the potential to fix, re-design and improve your GIS.
clean up and/or enhance your data
When considering the Utility Network, organizations may opt to use one of the templates provided by Esri (found here). These templates define the industry data model, which has many pre-defined fields. This is also a point where adding fields to match specific business needs makes sense.
When migrating geodata sources, there are normally data elements that were added to the original source model because the data modeler thought they were needed or for some other reason. In some cases, these data elements were never even populated. This can be an opportunity to “clean up” your data model and remove unnecessary items. The choice to implement the Esri Utility Network does involve a data migration, so why not take advantage and do a little housekeeping?
One lesson learned in our analysis is that there are times when the source geometric network data must be “enhanced” to function properly in the Utility Network. One example is the concept of generic network junctions. When building a geometric network, a generic network junction is inserted into the network at any location where two edge features intersect and there is no node (i.e. device) at the intersection. These network junctions do not exist in the Utility Network. In many cases, they need to be migrated to real features (i.e. Fittings, Transitions, etc.) with associated information that allows them to connect to other features and correctly pass connectivity rule validation. We encountered several instances in our sample source data where the resulting migrated data had to be “enhanced” before it was fully operational in the Utility Network.
Integrations that currently rely on the existing Geometric Network information will need to be redesigned. This is another opportunity for improvement. Since the Utility Network is based on a service-oriented architecture, you may now choose to obtain trace results via REST endpoints (an integration protocol). REST endpoints are more of an industry standard now, vs the custom solutions that were required when using the Geometric Network. Depending on specific integration requirements, this can greatly improve the resulting solution, in some cases making it simpler and easier to maintain. Since this will now use industry standards to pass information between the integrated systems, this will also allow for the use of Enterprise Service Bus capabilities to transform the data to be consumed by multiple systems. Maintenance for the integration points can be maintained by non-GIS specific developers who are familiar with this technology.
no aversion to versions
Another aspect of the Utility Network that brings with it change is in geodatabase version management. The versioning model is changing from traditional to a branched versioning system. Since the Utility Network requires the use of feature services and branch versioning, migrating to the new technology will require changes to any current “batch” reconcile and post tools. These tools will need to be modified to support this new methodology and also to incorporate other potential new “batch” operations like validating the network topology. While this does not have to have massive impact, it can allow for process improvements and the opportunity to streamline workflows.
we can help
Patrick Geospatial Services has been analyzing big picture requirements, constraints, and opportunities for organizations considering the advantages of Esri’s Utility Network. We have been digging deep since the first alpha version was released, approaching our analysis and testing as a project and utilizing real-world customer data representing gas, electric and water networks. We will continue to uncover opportunities as we delve into the many questions and unknowns coming out of our analysis and from our clients.
What burning questions or concerns do you have about Utility Network?