GIS Software Architecture

There are sometimes two different GIS architectures - one oriented towards short duration projects (project- oriented) and one oriented towards long term projects (data base oriented). Some systems combine the two. Most GIS are database oriented and use a relational data base management system (RDBMS). Data are put into the RDBMS via application programs and retrieved and processed by other application programs before being rendered. It has been suggested that an Object-Oriented Database system (OODBMS) might be better for GIS but this has not yet been implemented.

A project oriented system can be simpler. Data files may be combined, e.g., in an overlaying operation, to produce new data files that can then be processed by other applications. The data files are more susceptible to being corrupted and not as secure as with a DBMS, so this type of system is better for short duration projects. In some planning projects, data is collected, processed, and only the final output is kept, so this kind of system is appropriate.

The shift in hardware from large time shared mainframes to networks of smaller machines, perhaps in a client-server architecture, has affected GIS. Many system now run on PC class machines.


GIS: Table of Contents
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Last modified on March 02, 1999, G. Scott Owen, owen@siggraph.org