Oracle Spatial the joker in the pack?

Corporate deployment of spatial technology does not have to be 100% ESRI. Oracle Spatial offers a viable alternative to ESRI’s SDE. Shell is in the process of moving its corporate spatial data from a legacy Genamap-based solution to Oracle Spatial.

The foundation of ESRI’s new technology is the GeoDatabase. This is designed to be deployed on databases from a variety of vendors including Oracle. But if, as is likely the case, your corporate data is already stored in an Oracle database, you have another option - to use Oracle’s own spatial solution SDO.


Confusing? No doubt. According to both ESRI and Oracle, the choice depends on your requirements. Co-location of spatial data in Oracle is said to be good for broader SQL queries. If predominantly spatial – use SDE. You could use both! Consolidating data into Oracle also simplifies infrastructure support. Putting all your spatial eggs into one big Oracle instance also avoids replicating metadata into another ‘Spatial’ database.


One company that has taken the Oracle Spatial route is Shell who is in the process of phasing out its Genamap legacy system and is migrating all of its upstream spatial data to SDO. Data types include pipelines, exploration mapping and environmental data. Shell reasons that some 80% of upstream data has a spatial component – often stored in different places and formats. The Oracle deployment is intended to centralize spatial data using a single model integrating spatial data with other business data types stored in Oracle.

Why SDO?

Why would you want to store your spatial data in Oracle SDO rather than in ESRI SDE? Oracle argues that this offers a move away from ‘proprietary’ storage. The openness of Oracle SDO is borne out by the fact that Shell uses the ESRI products to access its SDO data.


The Shell solution is not for the fainthearted. Shell are moving from a bespoke in-house development based on Genamap to another using an Oracle Spatial dev kit. These are not shrink–wrap solutions. We are in ‘build not buy country’ here. See this month’s editorial for more on these issues.

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