User group discusses large project implementation

March 30th, 2015, Published in Articles: PositionIT


The South African Oracle User Group’s (SAOUG) Spatial and Graph Special Interest Group (SIG) had their first meeting for the year on 24 March 2015, at Oracle’s head office in Midrand. The group, which has been established in 2014, offers a platform to discuss developments in Oracle’s Spatial and Graph product, and is also used as a forum to discuss implementations, applications and best practices.

Laurette Coetzee from AfriGIS, a co-sponsor of the event, introduced speakers Sarel Coetzer from Gijima and Marilene Heunis from Eskom Enterprise to the 20 attending members.

SAOUG S&G SIG [2015-1] (1)

Marilene Heunis, Sarel Coetzer, and Laurette Coetzee.

Coetzer explained the setup phase for a test project that Gijima will run in conjunction with SITA and the South African National Defense Force to performance optimise the Oracle stack for raster data processing. Raster processing, as opposed to flat file (tile) processing is a lot more process intensive, but comes with added advantages such as version control, naming conventions and standardisation practices.

The aim of the test project is to load NGI imagery into the Oracle databases, but the size of the files (3 TB in flat file structure, and 7+ TB in compressed raster format) is a major challenge in working with the files. This optimisation extends to all aspects of the processing, including hardware, middleware and database performance optimisation, and has a strong focus on return on investment. So far the test parameters, test method and practical limitations have been outlined, and testing is expected to start when specific servers become available in April.

The project drew great interest and comment from the floor, as well as a great many questions. One common issue experienced by users is the time it takes to import raster data into the database, which vary in terms of urgency according to different applications, but remains time consuming in most users’ experience.

Marilene Heunis elaborated on Coetzer’s test project, reminding participants of Oracle’s Albert Godfrind’s talk on ways to optimise processing, including the way a query is structured.

Heunis presented Eskom’s model for establishing an enterprise GIS, a project which started in 2008 and is now gaining motion. The enterprise GIS which is currently in its design phase will sit at the centre of the many branches’ operations, and solve current issues of disparity of data management, segmentation and duplication of data, and data integrity. The idea is to create a fully integrated, common platform for all geospatial and related data. She also explained how the system will cut costs such as managing multiple systems, and provide other efficiencies.

She explained the three main structures of the planned system – a foundation or SDS (Oracle database), the main structure or ESVA (Esri ArcGIS) and the top layer, a web-based GIS on which all the applications run, based on HTML5. The size of the data, around 2 6TB at the moment, also makes data management and handling a challenge, both crucial for data integrity. An authentication mechanism will be built-in to the system to verify changes users make on the front-end before changes are written back to the data server.

When data is an asset, and an important one at that, good security is crucial. Although the different sections of the project are still in the process of being incorporated into the system, and security mechanisms are still being developed and tweaked, the parastataal will employ a combination of security methods. For performance reasons, the data will not be encrypted, as it is a burden on the servers and generates a lot of heat on the CPUs. Instead, end-point authentication methods are being considered.

The project’s long term view looks to be more interoperable and OGC compliant, and also looks to move towards more open and non-proprietary technologies. Heunis also explained that the project is structured by Oracle data structure rules, organisational standards, and related best practices.

The event concluded with a networking session in which the ideas from the talks were further elaborated on.


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