Research and Teaching now powered by OS MasterMap

Research and Teaching now powered by OS MasterMap


Southampton, UK, September 11, 2007: EDINA and Snowflake Software announced that 32,000 academic users in over 148 higher and further education institutions now have access to Ordnance Survey MasterMap through the EDINA Digimap service.

The Digimap service is a flag ship service of the UK Joint Information Service Committee, and has been designed, built and operated by the EDINA National Data Centre at the University of Edinburgh.

With the imminent withdrawal of Ordnance Survey Land-Line and its replacement by OS MasterMap, EDINA had to work to build an alternative delivery to replace the rather simple mechanism currently used by users who download Land-line data.

This new is now serving the OS MasterMap Topographic and Integrated Transport Network (ITN) layers to the UK’s academic community. Bearing in mind that the Topography Layer alone is a seamless database of over 400 million objects (where each object also has a rich set of attributes associated with it) this project was no mean feat – especially in view of the fact that each user has a different demand for data provision.

There were several requirements which make the facility unique:

  • All data delivery had to be on line, even for large quantities of data
  • The facility had to be simple to use given that the data will be downloaded by non-experts as well as expert users
  • Users needed to have the option to take just “since then” Change-Only-Update data or total re-supply
  • Users wanted access to historic MasterMap data as well as current data
  • The system needed to be robust and scalable – anticipating additional user growth and the inclusion of other GML datasets.

    EDINA and Snowflake Software collaborated closely on the project to deliver a robust, fault tolerant data supply facility to the community. This system is scalable enough to comfortably handle peak loads as well as occasional requests that fall outside normal parameters.

    EDINA opted for a “Service Oriented Architecture” approach based on Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards and best practices. The selection of specific “best of breed” tools for the various components was, therefore, an important part of the process.

    Oracle’s 10g Spatial Database was selected as the database management solution to store the OS MasterMap data. Following functional and performance benchmarking, EDINA also selected Snowflake Software’s GO Publisher and GO Loader as the other main third party commercial tool to be implemented.

    “GO Publisher was selected primarily due to its ability to scale both in terms of memory and CPU usage and also its ability to stream back gigabytes of GML with little impact on the system,” explained Dr. David Medyckyj-Scott of EDINA. “Another important consideration was that GO Publisher is a translational Web Feature Server (WFS) and the GML that it produces validates exactly against the original Ordnance Survey definition files. Furthermore, the graphical user interface is very good at quickly creating new mappings so it is very easy to add or alter elements which will bring us benefits when we move to make other national data sets available.”

    Utilizing standards based 3rd party tools for the storage and GML interfacing meant EDINA could concentrate on developing the middleware layers and the customer interface.

    The data delivery facility is simply, but efficiently, addressed. The End User places an order which is evaluated, prioritized, and processed within the system. The user receives an email when the order has been processed and returns to the facility to download the MasterMap data. Getting copies of historic MasterMap will just be a case of setting the date of interest as well as the area. For the first time researchers will have access to large scale historic dataset which will add a new dimension to the research that is possible.

    It is the ability to dynamically and pro-actively manage different levels of demand that is the key to the success of Digimap. This is achieved by:

  • Queue prioritisation
  • Re-scheduling for off-peak large data delivery
  • Automated load balancing
  • Scalability through dynamic hardware upgrade during run time

    “Digimap has been in beta testing for 6 months with 6 universities,” continued Dr Medyckyj-Scott. “Now we have gone live and already we are seeing high levels of use. We are truly convinced we have fully addressed the real requirements of an on-line web-based GML delivery service.”