GIS data unites in team pool

Information embedded in geographic information system maps helps
government agencies monitor large areas for environmental shifts and other changes. Until
now, this meant maintaining two sets of databases--one specifically for the GIS.

Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. of Redlands, Calif., a leading GIS vendor
for almost a quarter-century, wants to streamline this double bookkeeping. Under an
agreement with Oracle Corp., ESRI will give its GIS tools direct access to information in
Oracle-based data collections.

The development should boost the government's National Spatial Data Infrastructure
effort, which needs access to far larger volumes of data than current GISes will support.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency uses ESRI's Arc/Info to link emergency
assessments to map points and exchange data among FEMA sites. Other Arc/Info customers
include the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wetlands
Research Center and the Energy Department's Office of Waste Management.

These GIS users search for emerging patterns by integrating data from maps,
spreadsheets and graphics programs. They click on map points to call up other maps, data
sets or photos.

ESRI plans to embed a run-time version of the Oracle7 Spatial Data Option in its own
Spatial Database Engine, allowing Arc/Info users to pull data directly from Oracle
databases without having to first dump it into ESRI's proprietary database management

The run-time access would bring updates from an agency's main database more quickly
into separate GIS systems. It also would give end users access to bigger data sets than
ESRI's built-in DBMS can handle. The integrated software will keep GIS operations apart
from database operations to avoid performance drains caused by database size, number of
simultaneous users or number of data dimensions.

ESRI's engine, by moving geographic information from separate proprietary databases
into central databases that follow relational standards, theoretically could be used to
build a core GIS system showing a central view of data from multiple GISes.

ESRI will resell Oracle products with its tools, and Oracle's government unit will
bundle the ESRI engine with Oracle7 systems ordered with the Spatial Data Option. Oracle
will discount ESRI products on its General Services Administration schedule and set up a
GIS consulting office.

ESRI also has an agreement with Hewlett-Packard Co. to offer HP 9000 workstations and X
stations configured for government mapping, land records management and environmental

The bundle will include an ESRI single-user Arc/Info setup, priced from $16,995 on an
HP Model 712/80 to $32,500 on a Model 735/125, with 32M RAM, a 1G drive and a 20-inch
color monitor. Multiseat pricing is available.

ESRI also has a new version of ArcView 2.1 for Apple Macintosh platforms, priced at
$995, with the Avenue object-oriented programming language for custom scripts. Users can
design their own ArcView dialog boxes to prompt interactions and initiate data transfers.

ArcView 2.0, which has virtually the same features, runs on PCs, most Unix systems and
Digital Equipment Corp.'s OpenVMS. The Mac version requires a Power Mac or a Mac with a
Motorola 68040 processor and math coprocessor. RAM requirements are 12M at the low end;
32M is recommended.

The more powerful Arc/Info, which started as a Unix application, is priced from
$16,000. A PC version starts at $2,995. ESRI's Web page at
  has pointers to government contracts offering the GIS software.

Contact ESRI at 909-893-2853, ext. 1560.

About the Author

Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.

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