Modeling ArcGIS Geodatabases with Enterprise Architect

Webinar August 2015
In this webinar you will learn how to:
  • Model a geodatabase schema using UML and Enterprise Architect 12
  • Check the semantics of your model with a powerful validation tool
  • Implement your design using ArcCatalog

Are you getting started with ArcGIS geodatabase design and wondering how UML can help? Have you worked with ArcGIS for years and want a better way to design and
share schemas?

We'll show you how to design, validate and generate a simple geodatabase from the ground up.

Ben Constable
Ben Constable

Explore the Example ArcGIS Geodatabase UML Model

We have provided the example Enterprise Architect model and the generated XML workspace document.
Example Model: arcgis-gdb-design-example-model-smartmeters.eap Download the Enterprise Architect ArcGIS example model
XML workspace document: smartmeter-geodatabase-workspace.xml Download the example ArcGIS XML workspace document generated by Enterprise Architect
Bonus Video: The difference between Model Elements and Diagram Elements Watch video explaining the difference between model elements and diagram elements in Enterprise Architect
Bonus Video: Deploy a custom model validation script for ArcGIS Watch video explaining how to deploy a custom Model Script to validate ArcGIS models in Enterprise Architect

Questions from the Audience

Click on a question to see the answer.


What version of Enterprise Architect did you use?

A pre-release of Enterprise Architect 12.1 was used. Upon official release, this will become the recommended version of Enterprise Architect for ArcGIS modeling. You can, however, recreate and edit the example used in the presentation with earlier versions of Enterprise Architect.

Can you put the example Enterprise Architect project on your website for download later?

Yes. You can download it from this page.

What is the topic of the next webinar in this series of geodatabase modeling in Enterprise Architect?

Do you support geodatabase designs developed using Visio and Esri's CASE tools?

We provide the ability to import models from Visio and suggest a specific model migration process for ArcGIS geodatabase designs created in Visio. For details, please see our Visio Model Migration page.

We also have an upcoming webinar on migrating ArcGIS models from Visio to Enterprise Architect. For details, please see our webinar page.

How can we give feedback to influence the development of future versions of Enterprise Architect?

We encourage users to submit feature requests using our feature request page. You can also access this directly from within Enterprise Architect via the menu: Help | Online Resources | Request a Feature.

ESRI used to have ArcGIS Diagrammer which worked with Visio up to ArcGIS 10.2, but it has been deprecated in 10.3. Will Enterprise Architect step in to fill the gap?

Enterprise Architect provides schema design (forward and reverse engineering) capabilities, which include creating standard UML diagrams to represent the geodatabase design. There may be some aspects of the geodatabase that ArcGIS Diagrammer supported that are not yet covered by Enterprise Architect – Annotations would be one example, which we hope to address in future.

We also welcome feedback on your experiences using either tool, and any suggestions to bridge functional gaps:

What are the main advantages over modeling with ArcGIS Diagrammer?

Enterprise Architect and ArcGIS Diagrammer provide two different approaches to visualizing geodatabase designs for ArcGIS. While ArcGIS Diagrammer provides a detailed representation of the geodatabase and likely covers more of the ArcGIS feature set, Enterprise Architect uses the UML standard as its modeling notation. Some advantages of using Enterprise Architect include:

  • The ability to link your geodatabase designs to broader system or enterprise models, as Enterprise Architect covers everything from high level mind maps and strategic models to systems requirements, business processes, relational database design and object-oriented design. So you can maximize the traceability of your geodatabase designs.
  • Out-of-the-box reporting and documentation facilities. Enterprise Architect provides a customizable, template-driven framework for generating reports from UML models in Word and PDF formats. So you can create stylized data dictionaries from your geodatabase design, for example. HTML reports are also supported. This allows you to communicate your geodatabase designs to a wider audience.
  • Tool support. Sparx Systems has been actively developing modeling tool support for ArcGIS for several years, and is continually improving Enterprise Architect's support for ArcGIS. Conversely, it appears that Esri no longer supports ArcGIS Diagrammer after version 10.2, or CASE tools after version 10.3.

Modeling Geodatabases

Can you model multiple datasets in one project?

Yes. Even though the example used in the presentation only contained one Feature Dataset, there is no limit on how many of these you can model in your Workspace package. To create additional datasets, simply drag the Feature Dataset item from the ArcGIS Diagram Toolbox onto your workspace diagram.

Furthermore, you can create multiple workspaces in a single model repository (Enterprise Architect project).

How do you link a subtype to a field inside a feature class?

As noted in the presentation video at 13:50 minutes, you create a copy of the related fields in the subtype. The easiest way to do this is just drag them from the feature class in the Project Browser onto the subtype(s) in a diagram. Then you can change the field type and initial value.

How can I learn more about subtypes?

See pages 26 and 27 of our ArcGIS UML Modeling Tutorial.

Is it possible to build geometric networks within the workspace?

Yes. Geometric Networks are available in the ArcGIS Diagram Toolbox. They are represented as a UML package, with their participating feature classes being owned by that package. For details, see these Help topics:

How do you model topology?

See the Help topic: Topology Example.

Is it possible to model annotation feature classes?

No. We hope to provide this capability in a future release of Enterprise Architect.

How can we have a class (or element) that is unique in the Project Browser, but has two views in a diagram? (When I do a drag and drop, Enterprise Architect prevents me, saying only one instance is supported.)

Until version 12.1, Enterprise Architect has not supported the ability to represent the same element multiple times on a diagram. As mentioned in the webinar, Enterprise Architect 12.1 is currently in the pre-release stage and will be made available shortly as a beta release.

As of this version, Enterprise Architect has a diagramming feature/workaround that allows you to represent the same element multiple times on diagrams. The feature is Virtualized Connector Ends. It allows you to draw lines to the same element in numerous places on the diagram.

We plan to discuss Virtualized Connector Ends further during our November webinar, as it appears that it was common practice to use numerous representations of the same element in Visio diagrams. The webinar is about migrating ArcGIS models created with Visio and CASE tools to Enterprise Architect. For more information, see our Visio migration webinar.

Will it be possible to change the geodatabase schema after it was deployed, by updating Enterprise Architect model and importing the changes into ArcGIS?

Not currently. This is a capability we are planning to add in future though. Currently, you can use Enterprise Architect's Baseline Compare feature to generate a list of model differences, which you can then use to manually update the geodatabase schema. This approach is discussed in more detail in a question from our previous ArcGIS webinar.

When setting the coordinate system on the Spatial Reference element, I get an error: Field 't_objectproperties.Notes' can't be a zero-length string. Why?

It appears that an issue was introduced with the release of Enterprise Architect 12.0.1215. Our development team confirmed the error is specific to this build of Enterprise Architect, and shouldn't occur in previous builds, nor in the upcoming version 12.1, which I used for the webinar.

Fortunately the error scenario is harmless – the system fails an attempt to replace a value associated with one of the Spatial Reference properties, but the final state of that value is correct.

Is there any difference in designing the model for Local and Remote Geodatabases?

The only model-level setting I'm aware of is the WorkspaceType tagged value. You'll find that on the ArcGIS Workspace package with an option specifically for remote geodatabases – esriRemoteDatabaseWorkspace.

Reverse Engineering

How about the reverse process of creating an Enterprise Architect model from an existing geodatabase – can you import an existing geodatabase schema?

Yes. You reverse engineer an ArcGIS geodatabase from an XML Workspace document, using the menu in Enterprise Architect: Extensions | ArcGIS | Import ArcGIS Workspace XML.

Can you import an external vocabulary source into a Domain

Enterprise Architect does not provide a specific ArcGIS feature to do this for you, but depending on the source and format of the external vocabulary, this might be a task for a Model Script. You could import the data via a script (or even a CSV import) and then create the corresponding Coded Value Domain elements based on the input data.

For details on Automation and Model Scripts, please see the Help topic: Enterprise Architect Object Model.

Model Transformations

Do you support model transformations from ISO 19100 application schema to ESRI ArcGIS?

Not currently. We are considering providing model transformations from more abstract information models to an ArcGIS representation (platform specific model) for a future release.

Documentation and Reporting

Will you provide a specific template for geodatabase documentation purposes?

Yes. We released a set of data dictionary templates with our recent webinars on documentation. These webinars specifically used an ArcGIS data dictionary as the example.

In future we may roll these report templates into the Enterprise Architect installer as well. For now, you can get the templates by visiting the Document Generation webinar page.