Last Thursday Austin Water, SSP Innovations, and GISinc presented a Utility Network Panel Discussion at the Esri UC 2020

While the panel was formed as a result of Austin Water's customer presentation at the Esri UC 2020, attendees could ask questions in any capacity regarding the Esri ArcGIS Utility Network. For your convenience, we've summarized the questions and their answers in the Q&A below:

Q: Does anyone know if there is backward capability from UN to legacy programs like CUES GraniteNET. Would SSP Sync work for this?

A: The most common providers for systems such as asset management, CCTV, valve exercising, hydraulic modeling, etc. (especially those which are Esri partners) are actively working on updating their systems to be compliant with the Utility Network. We recommend contacting your vendor specifically to inquire about their timeline. SSP Sync allows you to continue using your geometric network for transactional production editing and the utility network for publication and consumption. Look for additional options from SSP in the future.
Michael Parma, GISinc

Q: It seems that UN has a high requirement for connectivity. When you use Data Reviewer to clean up the data, do you have criteria to determine whether the data is clean enough for the UN migration? How do you know your data is good/ready for the migration?

A: There isn't a magic number or threshold you are shooting for. All data can essentially be migrated to the UN it is just a matter of how many errors you will get on the UN side as well as how much use you will get out of the resulting UN. Use Data Reviewer and the Esri set of water related rules to ensure key attributes are populated as well as features are snapped to the highest degree possible. Clean low hanging fruit and determine which features can be cleaned in the UN.
Emerson Chew, GISinc

Q: When Austin Water has both Geometric Network (GN) and UN running at the same time at this stage, is editing completely done in the ArcGIS Pro environment? Have you seen any major issues with editing in Pro?

A: SSP Sync allows you to continue production transactional editing in the GN while pushing changes to a publication UN for client consumption. At present, all edits are performed in the GN. Sync pushes the changes and validates dirty areas created. 
- Michael Parma, GISinc

Q: What are the primary nuggets that you are now getting out of the transition? The things you can name as gains or wins from each perspective (i.e., editors, developers, and users). 

A: For users: A smarter network that could handle more complex traces. For editors: Allows for better integration with ArcGIS Pro and the enhanced editing capabilities there, including branch versioning. For developers: Less customization, and use more out of the box applications, us to focus our attention on the projects that truly needed customization. Reduce costs associated with updating and maintaining our systems. For all: A modern and flexible architecture that was going to be supported for the next fifteen years.
- Austin Water Team

Q: How are you dealing with field apps and mobility? What Esri solutions are you leveraging and are they still operating on the GN or UN?

A: Given the limited support for branch versioning in Collector, presently our clients are generally using Collector to edit a simple reference layer in the field and then applying those edits to the UN with Pro back in the Office. We're very excited to see full support of branch versioning in Collector and the upcoming release of the Field Apps.
- Michael Parma, GISinc

Q: What were the biggest pain points migrating to the UN from an administrative perspective?

A: The biggest pain point is "you don't know what you don't know." The Utility Network is so different from the Geometric Network that you have to learn how to do things all over again, so starting out you're in a constant state of confusion. The good news is that it starts making sense the more you work it with, and you start discovering all the ways it has improved over the old geometric network design.
- Austin Water Team

Q: Which GIS database version did you start at and which version do you anticipate being at by project completion? 3 years is long time!

A: We are currently on SQL Server 2016 and will likely be on 2019 by the time we're in production. 
- Austin Water Team

Q: From a database administrator perspective, what has been the greatest challenge with migrating to the UN? How was the migration to branch versioning?

A: It changes the way in which you interact with the database from a backend/SQL server standpoint. Typically queries performed against view tables and adds and deletes now need to be performed against the REST API.
Emerson Chew, GISinc

Q: Is FME part of the integration/scripting process at all?

A: Esri provides a couple of options for data migrations. The Data Loading Tools, suitable for most organizations, rely on configuration of a geoprocessing tool based on Python. For more advanced migrations, they also provide an FME workbench. SSP Sync is a proprietary tool which can be used both for migration and for transmitting incremental changes between a production and publication environments.

Q: I am assuming this is a migration of all utilities, water distribution, wastewater, and stormwater? If so, could you speak to the timeline each migration, do they go together, each one separately, etc?

A: For multiple utilities, we recommend a staggered parallel approach. After determining the necessary technical architecture, begin the planning and data mapping for the first system. As you begin building the migration tools for the first system, you can start the planning process for the second. We generally suggest giving yourself at least a year for the implementation, longer for multi-system implementations. - Michael Parma, GISinc

Q: Shall we recommend UN to existing Customers those are already using with Schneider Electric, Ericsson Technology, and etc? What benefits they would get?

A: The Utility Network incorporates a huge amount of utility specific capability that was not present in the “ArcMap” and “Geometric Network” world, and as such third party vendors such as SE and Ericsson were required to manage (for example) Electric and Telecom networks.  While Esri has many partners (including SSP) that offer products to enhance the Utility Network, the dependencies on these solutions are not as great and Esri continues to add more capability over time. The benefits are far beyond the UN itself, and more what being on the UN means in terms of access to the entire platform including Web and Mobile capability (Read more here: https://sspinnovations.com/blog/utility-network-is-growing-up/)
- Adam Tonkin, SSP Innovations 

Q: Is it possible to migrate GE Smallworld data in the UN? Any plugins are available?

A: Yes, there are a number of GE customers migration to the UN today, but there isn’t a standard migration tool or ‘plugins’ to ‘automatically’ migrate the data, and there are some data considerations specific to GE that make these programs different to a migration from an existing Esri Geometric Network customer.  That said, a number of the concepts in GE (triggers, internal worlds etc) – have parallel capability in the Utility network that did not exist in the past, providing an experience more familiar to GE customers.
- Adam Tonkin, SSP Innovations

Q: Is there any training, or sample data of Electric, Telco, Gas, Water UN for distributors? 

A: Yes. Esri provides sample data from the City of Naperville, IL which corresponds with the data they provide with the other ArcGIS for Local Government solutions.

Q: Are we able to create multiple components for a single feature (like label, dimension, leader line, cable symbol as a dot in the UN)? 

A: Yes, there are numerous options to support a single feature that represents multiple components, and have the views of these components (labelling) vary based on the map and/or visualization tool they’d prefer to use. Probably the biggest change in the UN is the notion of ‘containment’ – where a single feature can have a number of features ‘contained’ within it (for example, a “Substation Fence” Polygon (or Point feature) may have a lot of equipment contained within it). ArcGIS Pro can enable users to turn off and on the ‘content view, so either only the simple (“point/dot”) feature is visible, or all of the other components, depending on the level of detail you’d like to see.
- Adam Tonkin, SSP Innovations 

Q: Being a relationship model, can we find out future entries in respective tables (like geometry, connectivity, componentents, attributes, etc) in back-end of the database?

A: All of the UN information is stored in a relational database, although access via Services is recommended to manipulate and interact with the core UN data itself.
Adam Tonkin, SSP Innovations

Q: Which UN version is recommended when starting from scratch? 

A: Given improvements made at each version, we recommend implementing on the latest version of both the ArcGIS platform and the Utility Network model available at the time you begin.
Michael Parma, GISinc

Q: Do you have a step by step guide on how to migrate to the UN? Any "easy button ways" that our GIS staff can start with before using a consultant for the more challenging tasks?

A: There are unfortunately no easy buttons, though Esri does outline the necessary steps and provides some data migration tools to make the task easier. Also be sure to review your technical architecture to ensure you have adequate capacity to support your users. 
Michael Parma, GISinc

Q: Does the Utility Network natively manage construction plans (i.e., as builts, record drawings) as part the network?

A: The UN is a framework for managing your physical assets and as such does not dictate a particular structure for enhancements such as supporting documentation. These can be added as related features similar to how you do this today with a GN.
- Emerson Chew, GISinc

Q: Can I use ArcGIS Collector to update Utility Network features? Does Collector create a new version for each user editing features in Collector?

A: Collector will support editing of simple features in the UN. Meaning, it will not maintain connectivity or create dirty areas. It is expected that future versions of Collector and the Field Apps will support this workflow. Presently, Collector will only work on the default version.
- Michael Parma and Emerson Chew, GISinc

Q: Since wastewater and reclaim were one migration, were they moved into one domain network or were they split into two different domain networks?

A: The Wastewater and Reclaimed systems were separate migrations into their own respective domain networks. Reclaimed was essentially a nearly identical implementation to Water as a second pressurized system.
- Michael Parma and Emerson Chew, GISinc

Q: If you don't have a Geometric Network is the process to move to the Utility Network easier?

A: Generally we would argue that being in a geometric network is going to be an easier migration based on two assumptions. First, that your GN has better connectivity in place than without a GN. And second, that if you're in the GN, you're likely aligned well to one of the earlier Esri models and may take greater advantage of their preconfigured migration tools.
- Michael Parma and Emerson Chew, GISinc

Q: It would be great to hear someone talk about the need for data to be cleansed and have rules established to enforce domains and attribute values.

A: Data cleansing is a huge component to ensure a successful migration. The UN relies heavily on certain attributes being populated thoroughly and correctly. This ensures data is mapped to the correct location in the UN and reduces overall errors when enabling network topology.
Emerson Chew, GISinc

Q: For customers who have many schematic diagrams in their current GIS, how can customers migrate schematics diagrams (in geometric network) into the utility network schematics to avoid having to re-do manual effort? Are there migration methods that can help?

A: Migration of schematic diagrams is possible but is complex, due to the fact that there are typically model differences between how features are represented in the GN and then in the UN, so there may not be an exact “1:1” mapping. GUIDs would also be required in the source data to ensure we can make the same connection between the UN “Schematic” to the UN Feature, the same way it exists in the GN. Esri is working on a sample tool and recommended process for this, which will involve exporting the source Diagram features to feature classes in ArcMap, which can then be used to generate an ArcGIS Pro based schematic. Still the considerations above mean that the final representation may not be 100% match, depending on the model changes.
Adam Tonkin, SSP Innovations

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Do you have a question that was not answered during the webinar or in the questions above? Email info@gisinc.com and let us know how we can help.