Extranet grows Hydra

Extranet grows Hydra

Sydney Water uses latest technologies to open up GIS data to external users.

By Paul Montgomery

Few Australian organisations are sitting on a terabyte of application data, but Sydney Water is more ambitious than most. It has re-engineered its massive new geographical information system (GIS) to the client/server age, in a project called Hydra, which is handling up to 800 internal users and potentially hundreds more over an extranet.

Charles Spence, manager, application services at Australian Water Technologies (AWT) - Sydney Water's trading arm, said the Hydra project was part of a "gradual shift" over 18 months away from the 15 year old mainframe-based GIS application, called IFIS. The end result will be software that does not just manage the data, but allows Sydney Water to exploit the "huge potential" for uses of the data.

Hydra, which went live on December 7 last year, is built around a GIS application called Smallworld. The records stored in the system are vector-based. Hydra data holds information on 1.3 million properties covering 20,500km of water mains, 21,000km of sewer mains and 500,000km of storm water drains.

"The project team had user input from day one."

The Hydra infrastructure comprises of 20 Sun Ultra Enterprise 450 servers holding 130GB each with 2GB of RAM, and13 smaller Ultra 30 servers from Sun acting as caches, with 45GB storage each and 500MB of memory.

This infrastructure change away from mainframe storage has enabled AWT to develop a graphical front end to the application and extend it outside the geographical department. The images are accessed through a Web client on 800 workstations running Windows NT 4.0, with at least that many staff using the application where previously Novell Groupwise and Microsoft Office were the only applications present.

"The project team had user input from day one. It was up to them to stipulate how the applications looked," said Colin Harrison.

"We looked at off the shelf packages. Our customers have particular needs, and it was decided that off the shelf solutions didn't fulfil those needs," said Mr Spence.

The Tower Technology Imaging system holds Sewerage Service Diagrams (SSDs) for all sewered properties in Hydra. There are 3.5 million SSDs, including 2.2 million historical versions, totalling around one terabyte of data. The Tower system had previously been integrated with IFIS, cutting down the time to retrieve SSDs for customers who came into Sydney Water offices.

"The idea is to link it to the GIS data via the SSD number so the user will be able to call it up," said Mr Spence. "The Hydra system shows the SSD number and by clicking on the lot number, users will be able to view and print the SSD from the imaging system."

Mr Harrison said that councils previously had direct entry into IFIS, but Hydra will be the first time that other external customers can access this data.

He added that the GIS development team would begin installing an extranet in May for approved customers and partners like city councils, fire brigades and State Emergency Services. Councils use the information as part of their management of land titles, while the fire brigades and SES need sewerage information to tackle chemical spills and drain blockages. The other main customer base is large developers like Meriton which need the GIS data to be able to plan new buildings.

"The extranet is a key item, and it is due to be up and running in June. The GIS Web application will allow external customers to gain access to dedicated Hydra layers," said Mr Harrison. "As more external customers come on line, we can supply them with a dedicated layer to meet their needs."

"With the move to Internet technologies, we can be faster to implement new projects. We must be ahead of the competition, to serve our customers better," said Mr Spence.

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