The “Road Ahead for Utility and Telecom Network Management” session at this year’s User Conference was jam packed, and this was even after they moved the session to a larger room.
There were many important concepts covered by the Utility Network Team and SSP is here to highlight some of the most important topics for Utilities and Telecoms.
Larry Young kicked off the proceedings reminding everyone about the recommended path to move from 10.2.1 to the platform and the new Utility Network. SSP has highlighted this in great detail in a number of resources, but the high level overview is:
- Upgrade to 10.2.1
- Deploy a portal (ArcGIS Online and/or Portal for ArcGIS)
- Start working with ArcGIS Pro
As with any project of this magnitude, it is always good to provide a reminder of the overall vision for the Utility Network Management Project:
- Provide utility customers with the ability to model, edit, and analyze complex networks of facility infrastructure using all Esri platform clients.
- Enable key modeling concepts to better support a true representation of what is on the ground, while fostering an easy exchange of network information with other mission critical systems.
- Support highly responsive editing and analysis capabilities.
The key concepts here are that the Network Management Project will provide utilities and telecoms a way to more realistically model their networks within the ArcGIS Platform, while enabling access to network functionality and capabilities across the platform, be they desktop, web, or mobile applications.
The new Utility Network will be built on a wholly services based architecture, with a feature cache being used to provide significant performance improvements.
The network model will provide enhanced capabilities for concepts like connectivity, containment, structural attachments, and tracing. An updated transaction model will provide a similar user experience to what users are currently used to, but will be completely revamped “under the hood” to provide more flexibility and improved performance.
The editing experience will be improved, expanding the usage of feature templates and incorporating more intelligent connectivity rules during the editing process.
Building a better framework
One of the key points that was reinforced throughout the session was the idea that Esri was building a Network Management “framework” that would then be able to be leveraged by Esri partners throughout the community.
They highlighted how the expansion of capabilities was not only happening within the core ArcGIS Platform, but how this project would enable an expansion of capabilities within partner solutions as well. The end goal here is that customers would experience a better overall solution through the increased capabilities of both Esri and its partners.
Composed of multiple networks
One of the things that I am most excited about with the Utility Network project is the key tenet that utility and telecom domain networks are comprised of collections of networks, and thus will be modeled as such.
For organizations that operate in dense urban areas, or who operate across domains (electric, gas, water, communications) this will allow you to more accurately model underground infrastructure (conduit, handholes, vaults, etc.), structural networks (poles, towers, etc.) along with allowing networks to share that infrastructure while participating in tracing and analysis capabilities.
During the session there were a number of capabilities discussed along with some impressive demonstrations. We cannot go into detail on each one, so I’ll touch on the highlights of the ones that I found most interesting and useful for our clients.
The Utility Network supports the ability to manage and catalog the life cycle status of features that participate in the network. It will come preconfigured with four lifecycle values (Proposed, In-service, abandoned, under construction) and will allow Business Partners to highlight additional lifecycle statuses.
These status values will be very useful when performing traces, because the tracing functionality will have the capability of being constrained to only certain lifecycle statuses that the user is interested in.
Tracing will be exposed as commands in ArcGIS Pro, as Geoprocessing tools, through the managed SDK, and as REST endpoints in the Utility Network Analyst service. Trace types will include such traces as: Upstream/Downstream, Protective Device Traces, Isolation Traces, and Subnetwork Traces.
One nice capability that was shown during a session demonstration was the ability to not only return the domain features from a trace (ex: electric features) but also the containers (ducts, duct banks) or and structures (poles) that the traced features reside in or are attached to.
Utility Network users will be able to work with schematic diagrams seamlessly, and the Utility Network will come with pre-configured schematic diagramming capabilities. These diagrams can be related to areas of your network (ex: Electric Switching Schemes) and will automatically update as network edits are taking place.
Once nice demonstration shown was the ability to bring up and interact with both the geographic view and the schematic layout of a section of your network within ArcGIS Pro.
There were a whole host of editing topics covered during the session, from changes to the transaction model, to how network topology will be validated, to attribute rules, connectivity and templates. There are a lot of very exciting additions on the editing front, and some of the most interesting in my mind are:
- The new versioning model will mean you will no longer need to reconcile/compress on a nightly basis.
- Attribute Rules will be configurable and allow field values to be automatically populated based on certain logic. These will come in 3 flavors: Calculation rules, Constraints, and Validation rules.
- Feature templates will be stored within the Geodatabase catalog and containment, connectivity and structural attachment behavior for feature creation can be configured quickly and easily
Moving to the Utility Network
One topic that we know all customers are concerned about is what will the process look like to move their existing GIS system of record to the new Utility Network. Esri provided a nice overview showing sample geoprocessing models and scripts that users can take advantage of to load their data into the new, Esri provided data models.
Business Partners will also have the opportunity to enhance these processes, and provide more refined tools and capabilities to assist users in moving to the Utility Network.
The Utility Network and the services model that will be at the heart of it will provide a framework for network management that will make for a better overall solution for Utility and Communications organizations.
Expanded capabilities from the ArcGIS Platform, Esri Solution Templates, and Partner Solutions will expand the capabilities and workflows that will be supported by the platform via Desktop, Web, Mobile Devices and the underlying Portal services.
There are a couple of important events on the horizon relating to Utilities and Telecoms and the Utility Network. One key thing to note is that Update 6 of the Utility and Telecom patches was released last week. Later this year, a Beta of the Utility Network will be released and it will correspond with the ArcGIS 10.5/ArcGIS Pro 1.4 release.
SSP highly recommends customers also attend the upcoming GeoConX conference in October, where Esri will be providing a wealth of information on the ArcGIS Platform and how it can benefit Utilities and Telecom customers.
SSP is actively participating in the Utility Network Alpha program and while we aren’t allowed to provide demos quite yet, know that once the Beta is released, we’ll begin producing useful information each month to get you up to speed on the key functionality in the Utility Network, how we can help you automatically migrate to the Utility Network, and where you may or may not need partner solutions to fill the gaps.
Exciting days ahead!