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January 24, 2018

Geospatial Data Moves to SAP HANA


SAP is adding geospatial data to its growing list of database offerings as it launches a partnership with spatial analytics specialist Esri to adopt SAP’s in-memory data and application development platform.

The partners announced this week Esri would run its ArcGIS enterprise geo-database on the SAP HANA platform. The integration is designed to boost performance and scaling with the goal of integrating location with other enterprise data sets. Among the promised applications are geographic information systems (GIS), mapping, advanced visualizations and spatial analytics, Esri said Wednesday (Jan. 24).

The GIS platform is currently used for applications such as providing municipal utility networks with geospatial data used to provide field personnel with analytics used in inspections.

A recent vendor survey found that many early AI deployments are targeting “field operations” applications. In-memory databases like SAP HANA are seen as new ways to scale those early applications. Among the expected benefits are eliminating painstaking data preparation and conversion tasks that would foster greater access to real-time analytics capabilities in the field.

Mainstream data platforms like Hadoop, NoSQL and relational databases are inadequate for many geospatial applications. The difficulty in storing geo-location data has given rise to a collection of specialized databases that are specifically geared toward storing
GIS data.

Among them is Esri’s ArcGIS platform that underlies range of location applications. In the open source arena, PostGIS, which overlays a geospatial component atop the Postgres relational database, also has a large following.

While the partners emphasize the performance gains of SAP HANA’s in-memory development platform, traditional relational databases from Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) also support geographic data types and queries, often through extensions to the core database.

Among the potential field applications of the SAP-powered (NYSE: SAP) development platform is the upcoming 2020 U.S. census. The Census Bureau plans to use extensive aerial and street-level imagery during the upcoming population tally. On the front end, visualization will help streamline address identification, thereby minimizing the number of workers going door to door. Census takers also will gather data via mobile devices equipped with GIS-based navigation and routing, according to Esri.

The partners also cited other municipal deployments of SAP HANA in support of Esri’s geo-database, including the Fairfax County, Virginia, water utility and the utility district in Omaha, Neb. The latter is using ArcGIS running on SAP HANA to deliver back-end analytics capabilities that would replace its manual utility inspection system.

The shift to in-memory and GPU-powered platforms reflects the explosion of geospatial data being generated by ubiquitous video and other terrestrial and airborne sensors. According to industry estimates, as much as 80 percent of all data being generated today has a geospatial component.

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