The Research and Markets report Global GIS Market in the Utility Industry 2014-2018 identifies an important new market trend in the increasing penetration of open-source geospatial software into the utility market. According to the report many small and medium-sized organizations that cannot afford to invest in expensive proprietary GIS solutions are now choosing open-source software. In the U.S. most of the 3000 electric power utilities are small to medium-sized organizations, primarily municipal and rural electric coops.
Spatial data versioning (long transactions) for utility records management
Two essential capabilities for utility and telecom records management are storing spatial data in an SQL database and long transactions, more commonly referred to as data versioning these days For a utility data versioning makes it possible to store spatial design data in the same database as as-built data, enabling design engineers to work on new designs at the same time as operations staff are relying on as-built information to operate and maintain active utility networks. Many of the largest telecoms and utilties have outside plant solutions based on these technologies, in some cases since the 1990s.
Open source spatial data versioning
In the most recent Eclipse LocationTech Newsletter, Paul Ramsey describes the latest development on a major open source initiative to support spatial data versioning. Paul points out that software developers have long had extremely versatile tools, such as Git, for managing software versions which tracks the details of all changes made to source code including dependencies in a distributed environment. He and others have asked why don’t we have this capability for spatial data management ?
The answer is GeoGig which takes the concepts used in distributed version control such as Git and applies them to versioned spatial data. GeoGig is written in Java and is available under an open source BSD License.
At the Location Intelligence Summit earlier this year in Washington, Juan Marin, CTO at Boundless, gave an overview and demonstration of what was then called GeoGit, a distributed system for geospatial data versioning using the same philosophy as Git.
To further leverage the abilities of GeoGig, Boundless has announced Versio for organizations to manage their spatial data. According to Paul Versio is a "hosted service built on GeoGig that provides easier toolks for data authors to collaborate on spatial data while streamlining the creation, maintenance, and distribution of spatial data."
By way of background Git is a distributed revision control and source code management (SCM) system. Git was initially designed and developed by Linus Torvalds for Linux kernel development in 2005. It is free open source software distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) V 2.
Every Git working directory is a full-fledged repository with complete history and full version tracking capabilities. Each local repository is standalone and is not dependent on network access to a central server. Git is known for very fast performance and for scalability.
History of long transactions for telecom/utility records management
Two capabilities that are essential for utility and telecom records management, storing spatial data in an SQL database and long transactions, were introduced in the early days of Automated Mapping/Facilities Mapping/Geographic Information Systems (AM/FM/GIS). The first commercial systems implementing this technology in the early 1990's were IBM's GFIS which ran on DB2 and VISION* which managed versioned spatial data in an Oracle RDBMS (this was long before Oracle Spatial and Workspace Manager). VISION* systems are still running at First Energy, supporting hundreds of concurrent utility network designers, and at CenturyTel (at the time US West then Qwest) and Telefonica Sao Paulo (at the time Telebras where the far-sighted visionary was the late Geovane Magalhaes) where each VISION* system supports about a thousand concurrent telecom outside plant designers. VISION* was acquired by Autodesk in 1999.