This article may reference Continental Mapping, GISinc, or TSG Solutions. These three legacy companies merged in January 2021 to form a new geospatial leader.

On June 3, 2021, GISinc, A Continental Mapping Company, hosted a  webinar with SSP Innovations on, ArcGIS Utility Network - A Transformational Technology Implementation

Dozens of questions were submitted during the presentation. Our panel of experts included:

  • Lindsey Stone - City of Hastings, NE
  • Mike Parma - GISinc
  • Emerson Chew - GISinc
  • Bill Bott - SSP Innovations

For your convenience, we have summarized in the Q&A below:

Question Asked Answer Given Answerer
Can you speak to the licensing? Esri doesn't require a license to use the geometric network. How does the licensing work for the editor, field user, and generic viewer? When editing via ArcGIS Pro, Field Apps, and Web Apps each Portal user is required to have the Utility Network add on license.  If you are just viewing via Pro, Field Apps, or Web Apps you don't need any additional licensing. Esri introduced user type extensions in Portal at version 10.8.1. Prior to that it was licensed as an extension to ArcGIS Server. Lindsey Stone, City of Hastings, NE
How does the Utility Network deal with unknowns (e.g., unknown state or DOT stormwater features in which local stormwater systems rely upon)? If using one of the Esri data models, unknown asset types are not allowed to connect to other assets. This will result in an error in the network. Of course, unknown assets can be added as rules. This increases flexbility but also might decrease overall data integrity. Emerson Chew, GISinc
Is UN symbology customizeable for different valve types & fire hydrant sizes - per our mapping standards? Absolutely. The solutions provided by Esri are just a guide or what they have implemented based on user feedback. Without exception, our clients have made changes all the time to account for business processes, devices, symbology tweaks, etc. Emerson Chew, GISinc
What if your utilities' GIS doesn't have a geometric network? Can you build the UN without that first? In order to use SSP Sync as your migration tool, a representative example of your preferred network model in the GN is required, but a relatively painless process to build usually. Sync uses these geometric connection definitions to automate placement and consistency as features are migrated to the UN. If you are using another method for migration such as Esri's Data Loading Tools, a GN is not required. There are still some advantages to building a GN, even as an intermittent step, however, to address source connectivity issue, though it's not required. Mike Parma, GISinc
What is the difference between Foundation and Solutions? Can you deploy the Solution from ArcGIS Pro is that the same as Solutions from AGOL? Bill: The Esri Solutions team provides a number of “solutions” as they call it, and one of them happens to be a “Foundational model” for each of the commodities. The implication of this “Foundational model” is that Esri intends for it to serve as a good starting point, but not the end-all-be-all model. That said, the models are very well thought through, most of them years in the making. But, they concede that not all in the model may fitting for each organizations unique situations. Or, that even though the model is comprehensive, it was not meant to be exhaustive – there are still things that may be missing from hit that are integral for your business. 

Emerson:  Also, Esri has significantly changed the way in which they deploy their "Solutions."  They were previously called "Data Foundations" up until the latest releases. They have now been converted over to the App Solution Gallery and have much more functionality included in the solution. The Foundations gave you the data model and a few maps to build from. The Solutions give you a more comprehensivce set of pre-configured tasks, examples, and a working Utility Network that make it much easier to deploy.
Bill Bott, SSP Innovations & Emerson Chew, GISinc
Should each system reside as its own system and be its own enterprise database, or can all the systems be combined into a single enterprise database? Bill: If  “system” means “utility network” then the answer is each utility network requires its own feature dataset, but there can be many feature datasets for a given enterprise database, hence many utility networks for each enterprise geodatabases too. And, not to get too carried away, but it is very possible to have multiple enterprise geodatabases on the same database. And after all that, the roadmap has cross-domain utility network support built in, or they intend to add that capability but it is not there yet as of 10.9.

Emerson:  I'd also add, for simplicity we have recommended one UN per Enterprise GDB.  With the already high level of change, trying to manage that many domains in one GDB can add to the lift factor. 
Bill Bott, SSP Innovations & Emerson Chew, GISinc
Can this work with 10.7.1? Yes, this can work with 10.7.1. Note, however, a lot of great functionality and performance enhancments have been added at 10.8.1 and 10.9.  Don't let that deter you though from deploying.  The UN can be upgraded at a later date. Emerson Chew, GISinc
When will sewer be available in the UN? Sewer is actually available now. We misspoke during the presentation. It is here: The Data Management Solutions for water, wastewater, and stormwater were released together on May 25th. Emerson Chew, GISinc
Did I hear that you can create your own model for let's say, water? So that we can keep existing feature class names? Yes, it is possible to create your own Utility Network Model from the ground up. You will still use the same five water feature classes though your existing feature classes would become your new asset groups. You'll want to consider adopting Esri's new naming conventions if you may eventually deploy their other application solutions. Mike Parma, GISinc
Lindsey, how long did your process take and how large is your utility (miles of main)? Our Water took approx. 6 months due to the amount of data cleanup that had to take place before migrating, the steep learning curve on learning the process and working with GISinc to show me the setup. We also ran into a few bugs along that way that extended the process. Our Sewer only took 3 months due to better understanding of implementation and the amount of data cleanup was a lot less. We have 208 miles of water main and 153 miles of sewer main. Lindsey Stone, City of Hastings, NE
What tools do you recommend for Data Assessment? Esri's ArcGIS Data Reviewer is our recommended tool for assessing your source data. Mike Parma, GISinc
I'm building my pilot on a File GDB for a single editor. Do I need enterprise solutions deployment tools to implement? If you are referencing the Enterprise Solutions tools and projects, no – you don’t need it to do that. But it has useful example that you might find intriguing, including a pre-fabricated utility network model in a FGDB.

Note that the FGDB is truly single-user. You will not be able to publish services for any web or mobile access.
Bill Bott, SSP Innovations
After the UN is in production, will all future Enterprise upgrades required an update to the UN? Upgrading ArcGIS Enterprise does not require an update to the UN version. However, to take advantage of functionality or capabilities introduced in a newer version, you will need to upgrade both ArcGIS Enterprise and the UN to match. Mike Parma, GISinc
Can you use the water distribution template for wastewater and stormwater .... or are there separtate solution templates that we should implement? I would use separate templates.  Sewer and Stormwater foundations don't look to be deployed in the gallery just yet.  I know they are coming soon. Before they moved to the app gallery they were called Foundtions.  This is the sewer:  This is stormwater  foundation: Emerson Chew, GISinc
Is the Utility Network extension required if you are only updating attribution in the field vs updating geometry or adding feature (e.g., updating water valve attribution for valve turning vs collecting missing features)? Any attribute or gemotry editing require the Utility Network Extension. Consider that certain edits (such as material or diameter) are validated against connectivity and business rules in the database, ensuring proper data integrity.    Lindsey Stone, City of Hastings, NE
Are there variants of this solution available for organizations that don't have ArcGIS Enterprise? The existing solutions can work in a stand alone file geodatabase. Note that this is truly single user, with no web or mobile access. Just download the needed domain and then alter the spatial reference of the provided UN. You can then use the data loading tools to load your data. There is also the suite of Data Management Solutions specifially designed for ArcGIS Online hosted feature layers. It should be noted, there is no Utility Network functionality with this option.  Emerson Chew, GISinc
Are users limited to using the Esri Water Data Model or can we use an existing customized data model that was designed by us to meet our specific needs? You can use any data model that you think best suit your needs. Esri actually offers a class "configuring the UN" in which they teach you to build a UN from the ground up. The solutions Esri provides are a solid framework makes it easier to integrate with other solutions as they are released, though you are not limited to this model. Emerson Chew, GISinc
What was the Esri solution called and could you provide a URL for that? Search for water using the link above. Deploy it to your AGOL account then download the solution. One correction to what we stated during the presentation: The Sewer and Stormwater solutions were released on May 25th. Emerson Chew, GISinc
As far as our water and sewer geometric network, one recommendation I've heard is to take a small sample area and test out the UN to see what's needed for your design. Once we have this planned out and tested, is the crux of the problem related to re-organizing the feature classes - i.e. merging and re-arranging various types of features (valves, hydrants, tanks, backflow devices, etc.)?  I'm wondering what it would involve without something like SSP Sync in place to keep our GN going while we upgrade our ArcMap Add-ins.   While a strong migration tool, SSP Sync's primary value is in transmitting incremental changes, allowing an organization to run both a GN and UN in parallel. When that scenario is not required, you can implement the UN more like a traditional implementation, creating all your migration tools in development, preparing and testing all your system integration configurations, and once done, cutover all your systems at one time. Mike Parma, GISinc
Some of the functionality such as the demonstrated tracing, which referenced whether or not valves were open or closed, seems to indicate a close integration with the asset management system.  I'm curious what asset management system Hastings, NE uses and how much of their migration effort involved bringing their asset management system to the point where it works with the utility network. We have purchased a full ERP system and our Asset Management System is coming in the future but has not started implementation process.  I did talk with the Vendor on requirements to ensure we were meeting requirments for when we get to that point. Lindsey Stone, City of Hastings, NE
What are your thoughts about a multi utiltiy company (E, G, W & WW) creating a planning project with a vendor prior to the actual imgration?  At a high level that is a phenomenal idea, there are many benefits to approaching it top down, not the least of which is understanding and speaking the same utility network vernacular across business units.Technical and data assessments, as well as even the design process, can be completed as separate planning projects ahead of a full implementation. In fact, we recommend this in many cases so an organization can more adequately prepare, especially the data, while getting ready for an implementation that might be another year or two out. Mike Parma, GISinc
The electric foundation has been labeled mature however personally the electric data migration solution Zip is not being found or downloaded, is this a known issue? The new model “deploys” the electric foundation to your organizations AGOL. Inside that deployed solution is the Enterprise Foundation Model download. Bill Bott, SSP Innovations
Does the UN database recommend how feature classes are splt? for example, for a water distribution network does the UN recommend splitting pipes at system valves, hydrant laterals, etc?  So there isn't a hard requirement on lines being split at valves/fitting etc.  The data solutions have split segments but that is not a requirement.  We have seen cases where if your GIS data was taken from a legacy CAD source there can be issues with continous line segments and they behave better when cleaned and segmented Emerson Chew, GISinc
Did I understand correctly, the File GDB version cannot be deployed as a service? Correct. The FGDB deployment truly supports a single user. Enterprise databases are the only databases that can deploy the utility network service on. Bill Bott, SSP Innovations
Does the UN work for electric utilities? Absolutely! Utilities of ours have already gone live with it as well. In fact, the UN was developed beginning with the electric utilities as they tend to be much more complex. Development of the water models followed some time later. Bill Bott, SSP Innovations
How do you handle legacy data, in particular attributes that don't have a place in the new UN schema? If you want to bring legacy data over, the UN base model can be extended with additional fields, domains etc. Asset Groups/types can be added as well. As we saw with ArcGIS for Water workflows, without exception our clients have introduced additional fields to support legacy data requirements.  Emerson Chew, GISinc
How many hours of prep time (reading, researching, testing, playing) did Lindsey put in for preparation for her project? I put in a lot of time into researching and talking to other companies to determine that the Utility Network was the route to go and who to help us get us there.  Once we choose GIS Inc. and to utilize their jumpstart package, they laid out the project and necessary resources very well, that I didn't have to research much on my own to begin the actual project. Lindsey Stone, City of Hastings, NE
What was the size of Lindsey's utility?  So I currently have 65 feature classes in 2 Geometric networks (one for sanitary and one for storm) how big was your system Lindsey and how long did your project take from idea spark to completion? In regards to Sanitary we have 153 miles of main.  I believe we started with aroun 20 feature clases with just sewer, but the way the utility network is set up we combined a few and applied them differently with attributes.  For example we had a feature class for each fiitting, now we have one juction feature class with the asset type breaking down each fitting.  With Sewer it took us 3 months from start to finish.  I was using the knowledge of setup from what I learned on Water and we did a few months of data cleanup to be able to bring the data over into the utilty network.  Water took 6 months because we had more data cleanup since it was a bigger network and we were learning how to complete the process. Lindsey Stone, City of Hastings, NE
If you have a sanitary geometric network and a stormwater geometric network do you recommend that you keep those seperate in the new UN or do they become combined? I would recommend you keep them separate.  Combining data models can be a time consuming endevaour

This is primarily a business decision. Esri presently offers separate domains for wastewater and stormwater. However, we expect as they did for ArcGIS for Water, that they will eventually revise wastewater to support a combined system. If you wish to move forward on combined, we recommend starting with the wastewater model and expand to include the stormwater assets. Though significantly more work to extend the model like this, it will allow broader support for business processes that run across the entire combined systm.
Emerson Chew, GISinc
Is the UN only avaiable in Enterprise? If so, will there be a shift to ArcGIS Online? Esri recently announced full UN support in AGO has been added to the long-term roadmap, with no estimates on timeframe.  Mike Parma, GISinc
For the water model isn't there is a solution for both AGO and Enterprise system? Would you recommend migration to AGO solution before Enterprise? Yes, there is a solution for AGO as well. If you are already in Enterprise, then I would suggest start testing against a file gdb.  Once you get that flow down, deploy to a Develoment Enterprise Geodatabase and deploy Dev Services Emerson Chew, GISinc
Are there tools for the Data Interoperability Extension, or is the full FME Desktop recommended? Data Interoperability includes a lighter weight version of FME and should be sufficient to do a migration. Safe Software may provide other value through their other Desktop offers, they have a comparison chart on their website I believe (FME Desktop vs Data Interop). As yet another alternative, Esri provides a free set of Data Loading Tools which we've used with good success. Bill Bott, SSP Innovations

Topics: Enterprise GIS Architecture, GIS Implementation, Utilities