How I’d like ArcGIS to Work with SQL Server 2008

When Micosoft announced that SQL Server 2008 would include spatial data types I was excited. I’ve been a SQL Server user for a long time and have always preferred its management interface over those of the other DBMS I’ve tried. So the idea of spatial data types was exciting. Though there weren’t many tools out there to manage spatial data in SQL Server at first, I knew that ESRI would include support in the next update to ArcGIS, which they did at 9.3.

It seemed that GIS vendors such as Manifold beat them to it and included support for Katmai as soon as a pre-release build was available that included the spatial components. But I’m an ESRI user; and I’ve been one for a long time. So I knew that 9.3 would include support for SQL Server 2008.

And it did, except that it requires registering that SQL Server 2008 database in ArcSDE. Come on guys, why do we need ArcSDE to work with simple geometry? As a consultant I can’t always convince a client to go with ArcSDE for a variety of reasons:  they can’t afford it, they don’t have the IT resources to support it, etc. There are lots of times when adding the ArcSDE business tables to a SQL Server database schema is overkill to store some points lines and polygons. There are times when I’m lucky enough just to convince a client to add a couple of fields to a database. ArcSDE has a lot of benefits and there are plenty of times when I do recommend it and implement it in client sites, but ArcSDE shouldn’t always be necessary to work with simple spatial data in a relational database.

I’m a big ESRI fan and I strongly believe that they offer superior GIS tools. However, sometimes the simple approach is best. I’m not a Manifold GIS user, but I do like the way they’ve handled using SQL Server 2008 in their desktop GIS application. The video below shows the kind of integration I was hoping to see at 9.3 and at 9.3.1.

Besides the obvious direct connection to SQL Server without RDBMS middle-ware. The connection supports read, write and even table modification from the client. I’d love to see this kind of support for SQL Server 2008 spatial data types in ArcGIS. Maybe 9.4?

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