News Archive

SDSC's DICE Group and ESRI Collaborate on XML Standards for GIS

Published 02/14/2001

ESRI, the world leader in software for geographic information system (GIS) applications, has entered a relationship with the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) that will result in more effective technologies to tie together the many different forms of geographic data used in fields ranging from science and engineering to conservation, government, and business.

Specifically, SDSC and ESRI will evaluate and contribute to standards for using the Extensible Markup Language (XML) in GIS applications, and to ensure the compatibility of ESRI's widely used Arc eXtensible Markup Language (ArcXML) with other XML-based standards.

"We anticipate a productive collaboration that combines the leading real-world expertise in GIS software systems of ESRI with the recognized database and XML expertise of SDSC's Data-Intensive Computing Environments (DICE) group," said Sid Karin, director of SDSC. "This research can facilitate important new GIS technologies of benefit to many areas of environmental and Earth sciences and beyond."

GIS involves computer-based tools for mapping and analyzing data that integrate common database operations such as query and statistical analysis with the visualization and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps.

As vast volumes of different types of data come on-line, GIS applications are finding increasing uses because they allow researchers to analyze and display multiple data types on maps, yielding both overall insights and quantitative answers to questions from land-use planning to determining the range of a bird species or understanding rainfall patterns.

"Key to extending these new technologies is ensuring that the many different types of geographically relevant data can be assembled compatibly. XML is playing an increasingly important role in universally linking all types of data, and thus there is strong interest in the GIS community in developing XML-based standards to facilitate data access, and SDSC's experience will help advance these technologies," said Chaitan Baru, assistant director of the DICE group.

The ESRI relationship with SDSC grew out the DICE group's work on the Mediation of Information using XML project, one aspect of which involved developing XML wrappers capable of combining or federating distributed, heterogeneous GIS data. Other DICE partnerships have ranged from GIS work with the US Census Bureau to pioneering persistent digital archives technologies for the National Archives and Records Administration.

DICE researchers will perform data-modeling to assist ESRI in developing the second version of ArcXML. The principal issue, beyond developing standards that work well in light of current advances, is to ensure interoperability with other standards such as the Open GIS Consortium Geography Markup Language, as well as related World Wide Web Consortium standards. Additional industry standards the researchers want to ensure ArcXML compatibility with include Sun's Enterprise JavaBean technologies and Microsoft's Simple Object Access Protocol.

"The San Diego Supercomputer Center is a recognized leader in applying advanced computer science approaches to managing large data sets, as well as developing XML technologies in GIS applications," said Mike Tait, director of ESRI's Internet Products group. "ESRI is delighted to work with the talented staff and leadership of SDSC on this important initiative."

Reagan Moore, leader of SDSC's DICE group added, "This interaction is a good example of how industry-academic partnerships, one of a growing number at SDSC, can foster technology transfers that allow interoperability capabilities developed in SDSC's research environment to benefit the wider GIS community."

The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) is a research unit of the University of California, San Diego, and the leading-edge site of the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure ( SDSC is sponsored by the National Science Foundation through NPACI and by other federal agencies, the State and University of California, and private organizations. For additional information about SDSC see or contact David Hart at SDSC, 858-534-8314,

ESRI was founded in 1969 as a research group devoted to improving methods of handling geographically referenced data. Today, ESRI is the leading developer of GIS software, with more than 300,000 clients worldwide. ESRI also provides consulting, implementation, and technical support services. In addition to its headquarters in California, ESRI has regional offices throughout the United States, international distributors in more than 90 countries, and more than 1,050 resellers and developers. ESRI's goal is to provide users with comprehensive tools to help them quickly and efficiently manage and use geographic information to make a real difference in the world around them. ESRI can be found on the World Wide Web at

Contact: David Hart, SDSC,, 858-534-8314