Databases at crux of opening up GIS

One interesting dynamic in the geographic information systems marketplace is that the management of geospatial data is increasingly falling to those who handle mainstream databases.

"The database people in organizations are moving to keep geospatial data in a general-purpose database and away from a proprietary GIS database," said David Sonnen, senior consultant for spatial data management at IDC. "That by itself will make geospatial data available to everyone."

Oracle Corp., for example, now enables its database users to access geospatial data using SQL calls, and Microsoft Corp. is providing the same capability through its .Net Web services platform using Extensible Markup Language and Simple Object Access Protocol.

Storing geospatial data in this way means it can be managed centrally and made available locally. Any changes to the data could be handled automatically, just as any other data would be. And information can be accessed in numerous formats.

Until this facility arrived, activities involving geospatial data had to be handled as separate operations because the information was treated differently from other data.

"The bad news for GIS vendors, who have maintained those databases up to now, is that it takes away a revenue source for them," Sonnen said. "The good news is that once the access layer and data management layer become widespread in an enterprise — as they would with this central database approach — then the market for geospatial data and services will really explode."

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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