Spatial Data

April 21, 2009 at 7:33 am (spatial data, SQL Server 2008, TSQL) (, )

I work for an insurance company. If you think that maybe, we might be interested in the physical location of the things we insure, you’d be right. Actually, we’re an insurance company predicated on the idea that risk can be managed. That means that not only do we know where your factory is located. We know the wind zone, earthquake zone, flood zone, rain zone and temperature zone it’s in. We send engineers out to the site to inspect it and recommend upgrades. We track the upgrades and the condition of your facility.

With all that location specific information, just how important do you think it is that with SQL Server 2008 we’re finally getting a spatial data type? Yeah, exactly.

We’re in the process of launching our first full implementation of the spatial data type and, quite frankly, I was not ready. I had read several of the BOL entries and a few articles online, but nothing had given me enough information for me to say I understood how spatial data worked. Now I at least feel like I’ve got a basis for understanding. That’s because of Alistair Aitchison‘s book Beginning Spatial.

This was not an easy read for me. The first few chapters are frankly difficult. The concepts behind spatial data are not exactly simple. However, Mr. Aitchison did a great job of presenting the information in well explained, digestible chunks. I was able to get through. Coming out the other side, I’ve still got a lot of questions and concerns (especially around spatial indexes, he could have done another three or four chapters on just that topic), but I’m ready to support our project going forward now.

If you’re dealing with Spatial data and you’re not already a guru on the topic, I’d strongly suggest you pick this up. If you’re an expert, this book isn’t for you. There are plenty of examples and Mr. Aitchison walks you through some important concepts, such as importing spatial data. Did you realize that Microsoft didn’t include any mechanisms for dealing with in SSIS? Instead you either need to get creative with TSQL or, better still, use a third party product. I got a copy of Shape2SQL and I’ve tried it out. It seems to do what we need. We still might end up buying a commercial product (several were listed in the book). But it was the information in the book that told me what I needed to know to get started working with our spatial data.

I need to track down more info on spatial indexes now.

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