December 4, 2008

Introduction to Topobase API

Filed under: General — Tags: , — Darrin Maidlow @ 9:34 pm

This morning I sat in on the Introduction to Topobase API class at Autodesk University presented by Dongjin Xing.  I’ve made an effort to attend Dongjin’s classes every year for the past several years.  He is a good presenter, and has a damn good handle on things.  If you are a developer type, I recommend you consider his courses.  This one was no exception.

I’ve heard people talking about Topobase for quite some time.  I’ve heard good, and I’ve heard bad.  Today I got my first look at the product.  Topobase is a server product that works with Oracle spatial to facilitate the creation, editing and sharing of spatial data in Oracle.  A client is provided with a full API and users can access data using AutoCAD Map or a web client based on Mapguide Enterprise.

The design of Topobase looks to be well tiered.  Using ADO.NET and OraDirect.net it also supports connection pooling.  They provide a neat VB.NET scripting interface that helps build simple workflows, and data validation rules.

All in all, everything they are putting forward looks quite cool.  Visual studio templates to build Topobase plugins that can be loaded right into the Topobase UI.  It could become a very cool starting point for developers/consultants to start building tools to work on data. But there are a few problems…

Topobase is by no means a new product.  It’s several revisions in since Autodesk aquired it – but it still seems to have some performance problem.  During the presentation this morning, Topobase took over a minute to load.  Once loaded, it took over a minute to load and render a small dataset.  Now, Oracle/Topobase and AutoCAD Map were running within a virtual machine, running on a notebook.  Even still – that’s slow.

Now, I’m no Autodesk insider.  I’m also not a business expert (but I have been learning a thing or two about it over the years).  History does tend to repeat itself.  I look back at GIS Design Server and Vision.  Like Topobase, both of these products were acquired by Autodesk.  Like Topobase, these products were ‘Enterprise Data Store’ type things.  Both these products are now "not actively promoted", and customers are encouraged to migrate to Topobase.  With the Autodesk stock price down – they are going to trim fat.  The Autodesk reseller channel for the most part does not have the skills to use, support, or sell this tool – and it really is a developer/consultant tool.   My fear about Topobase is that if I were to invest the time in learning and developing for Topobase, Autodesk will "retire" the product.  Then that invested time is wasted, but more importantly the relationship with my customers is damaged by leaving them stranded up s**t creek with yet another dead ‘Enterprise Data Store’ thing.

It’s a catch 22.  So its not unreasonable to think that Autodesk needs developers like us to adopt, promote, and sell Topobase to help keep it alive.  I’m interested in hearing your opinions on this subject…

December 3, 2008

SQL Server 2008 Spatial

Filed under: General — Tags: — Darrin Maidlow @ 9:49 am

Well day 4 in Las Vegas for Autodesk University.  Took my first weekend off in a long long time =).  Monday was the ADN Developer Day, sadly its all NDA goodness and I really don’t wanna get a call from the Autodesk lawyers =).

This morning I attended the SQL Server 2008 with AutoCAD Map 3D and Autodesk MapGuide (GS100-3) presented by Orest Halustchak (Technical Architect at Autodesk) and Isaac Kunen (Senior Program Manager at Microsoft).   First it was really nice to bring in the brains from Microsoft for a presentation on SQL server.

This class was especially interesting to me, as I have not yet made time to look at SQL server 2008 in great depths.  It looks like Microsoft done a pretty good job at their first spatial offering.  I’m always hesitant to jump in heads first to a first release.  Hey I waited until Mapguide Enterprise 2009 before I even really considered writing any code for it.  If you are new to spatial databases, or you have a more basic need (no need for more advanced Linear Referencing System or network tracing functionality) SQL server might be right for you.  If you already have SQL server experience, the learning curve going to SQL 2008 spatial is going to be a lot less nasty than starting with Oracle Spatial.

The spatial functionality is available all versions of SQL server, except for the compact edition.  Yes, even the free Express version contains the spatial engine.  This is good news.  Often times when Oracle comes up (even the express edition), people get scared.  Oracle has a scary, difficult stigma associated with.  Spatial abilities with SQL server Express could be very helpful in getting a spatial engine into smaller shops.

Microsoft is pretty good with the small details.  One of the cool features of SQL 2008 is the ability to view the spatial data right in SQL Management Studio.  Note this doesn’t seem to be available in the Express edition of Management Studio. 

AutoCAD Map and Mapguide seem to work pretty well with SQL 2008.  I plan to load some larger data sets into SQL 2008 in the coming weeks to see how it performs in comparison to Oracle spatial.

Here is a tip for planning for AU.  Consider budgeting to eat outside of the Autodesk provided buffets.  =)

November 29, 2008

Time for Autodesk University 2008

Filed under: General — Tags: — Darrin Maidlow @ 8:45 am

I’m on the plane heading to Las Vegas. The time has come for another Autodesk University. Yay for my annual “vacation”. This trip is going to be packed full of meetings, classes, and World of Warcraft =). To all my devoted readers, I must apologize for the one month delay in posts. I’ll be working on getting everyone up to speed on what has been going on in the past month here. I hope to post once per day on cool and awesome things at AU. Hopefully there is something cool and awesome at least once per day.

I also have to add that bringing small children on airplanes is cruel, the US Airways coffee sucks, but the orange juice is great =)

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