Is ArcSDE dead? Part I

This is a recurrent question in my geodatabase seminars.

“ArcSDE” is a concept that has always created some confusion, and part of the reason is, I think, due to how ArcSDE has evolved overtime.

I have seen that some users tend to associate the concept ArcSDE with the “application service connections” which has been deprecated in 10.3.  Sometimes, I see people mixing things up and ending up asking questions like, “Has Esri got rid of ArcSDE?”

It’s also common to see users asking in forums why they should use ArcSDE if there are many databases that support spatial data, multi-user editing, replication,  and even spatial functions, as one of colleagues here in the Melbourne office found the other day. The confusion comes from the terminology used:

  • Do I get the same spatial capabilities using native database spatial data versus ArcSDE enhanced spatial databases – even when both use the same spatial data types – for example,  do I get the same capabilities using a MS SQLServer database using the Geometry spatial data type and a MS SQLServer ArcSDE enhanced database using Geometry spatial data type?
  • Is it the same multiuser editing found in SQL Server or any other database and the multiuser editing available with ArcGIS?
  • Is it the same “replication” functionality the one found in a database and the one we have with the Esri technology?

A short answer to all these questions is: – No, it is not the same.

ArcSDE enhances the capabilities of the database (multi-user editing, spatial capabilities, etc.) to allow the implementation of complex GIS workflows that otherwise could not be implemented. In addition, the ArcSDE technology together with other components and features of ArcGIS platform, allow complex GIS workflows to work in an integrated way. Let’s see this with an example:

An organization that requires to implement multiple editing workflows (web editors, field data collectors, local editors, remote editors, etc.) and to consolidate the edits in a central enterprise geodatabase – or single point of truth – can do it easily, and in an integrated way using the ArcGIS platform. What a user captures in his/her device (no matter when, where they are or the device they use) is sent to the central geodatabase in a automatic and transparent way. There is no need of doing any manual intermediate step, changes go smoothly from the client to the server,   and this is so for all the editing workflows.

This “continuity” allows that all the GIS workflows of the organization can be implemented in a coordinated and integrated way and this fact – directly or indirectly – is facilitated by the ArcSDE technology.

Therefore, when we talk about “a single point of truth”, enterprise geodatabases, multiuser editing, replication, web editing, domains and subtypes, mosaics, networks, etc. That all implies that the use of ArcSDE. When we talk about the implementation of different enterprise deployment strategies using the ArcGIS technology (centralised, distributed operations) we are considering the use of the ArcSDE technology.

So, why is ArcSDE important…?

Firstly because it’s in the core of the ArcGIS technology and as such, it’s a key component of the ArcGIS platform. It allows the implementation of complex GIS workflows, and the deployment of the ArcGIS platform to support almost any business case, and second because it can be the key driving factor, that directly or indirectly, helps an organization to decide to go from a basic GIS implementation to a complete enterprise GIS solution.

Let me finish answering the question that gives the title to this post, Is ArcSDE dead? the answer is a rotund No, it is not. We are just changing our vocabulary. From version 10.3 onwards, ArcSDE is embed into the term “multi user geodatabase”.

Regards, Walter Simonazzi

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