Major web services development sees GIS embedded in SAP

NetWeaver SOA and Flex-based GUI underpins Saudi Aramco’s land management solution.

Speaking at the 2010 ESRI User Conference in San Diego last month, Mostafa Abou-Ghanem demonstrated how Saudi Aramco is supporting its enterprise land management effort by integrating ESRI GIS with SAP ERP tools and EMC’s Documentum document management system. Aramco’s land management solution (LMS) automates some 17 business processes. It is worth noting that when Aramco talks about ‘land management,’ it takes a very broad view of its activity, where a common operating framework covers oil production, refining, transportation and export.

Most business data has a geographic location component that can be viewed on a map. This allows for understanding and interpretation of data in ways that are not possible through a spreadsheet or table. Co-visualization of data from GIS and ERP systems helps Aramco make informed decisions and increase efficiency. Integration of software such as ESRI and SAP has been made possible with the advent of the service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Online GIS viewers are integrated with SAP to let cartographers, supervisors, and managers analyze and review land use requests from the public or private sectors. Web viewers offer high resolution satellite imagery, allowing for ‘proactive’ detection of illegal utilization of land properties reserved for oil exploration. The combined functionality of the system goes beyond mapping, providing true positional awareness and support for analysis across multiple sources of information.

The LMS integrates five sub components, SAP Case Management, SAP Real-Estate, Documentum, ESRI ArcGIS Desktop and ESRI ArcGIS Server web viewer application. SAP Process Integration (PI), a NetWeaver component, was used as a services broker to pass information between the five systems. SAP ABAP programming was used to embed a GIS mapping application inside the SAP GUI and a SAP logon ticket was used for single-sign-on. ArcGIS geo-processing and the Flex API were used in Adobe Flash-based applications to perform feature creation online from the SAP UI without the need to switch to the ArcGIS Editor and also to edit maps during an SAP transaction.

For technophiles Aramco infrastructure included ArcGIS Server 9.3.1 Flex APIs and Flex 3 framework on the front-end, Java Web Application technology on the back-end and ArcSDE 9.3 with Oracle RDBMS for Geo-Database. ArcGIS server 9.3.1 Geo-processing services and the REST API were used for spatial analysis and data processing. BlazeDS was used for server-side Java remoting. Aramco reports that, ‘All systems communicated perfectly. SAP-PI supported message persistence, ensuring no data loss when a sub-system went offline.’ Abou-Ghanem concluded by observing that, ‘embedding GIS functionality inside operational applications and processes that drive the business makes GIS more operational and easier to use.’

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