Our Insights

ArcGIS Network Management: Tracing

June 16, 2017

by Robert Krisher
Senior Consultant at POWER Engineers
This article was originally published as a LinkedIn Article


In the previous articles of this series I covered the new terminology and data model introduced with the new Esri utility network model. If you haven’t already read this article, I recommend you check it out here. In this article I’m going to focus on the improvements Esri has made to the connectivity model in the new utility model.


On the surface, tracing in the new utility model is very similar to the way it behaved in the current model. You still use flags and barriers, there is still the concept of sources and sinks, and many of the same traces have made their way into the new model. But behind the scenes the new model is completely different and it has been developed in such a way that you will now be able to have a consistent tracing experience across all of the desktop, web, and mobile platforms.

While I will get into the details behind the new model in subsequent posts, I want to take this opportunity to show some practical examples of things that can be achieved out of the box in the new model with a special emphasis on functionality for which the previous model required you to create customizations or difficult workflows to support.

Basic Tracing

Before we get into the some of the more exciting examples I want to recap some of the most common traces that are used in everyday workflows. In the following example I’ve set a flag on a fuse that is protecting a small portion of my network. When I execute a downstream trace I can see that it has selected all of the features downstream of my fuse:

When I switch the trace to be an upstream trace it gives me a path back to my circuit breaker:

When I execute the subnetwork trace it will find all of the features that are downstream of the head of the circuit, in this case the circuit breaker:

Proposed Features

With the standard traces out of the way I want to take a look at one way of implementing tracing on a model that supports modelling proposed features in the connected model. For my example I have a small area that is being converted from overhead to underground. The first screenshot shows a trace that contains all the features that are proposed to be removed as well as those features that are being installed:

This next screenshot shows what happens when I alter several of the parameters of the trace to make it aware of proposed features and tell it to exclude any features that are proposed to be installed:

And finally here is what happens when I set up my trace to exclude features that are proposed to be removed.

While these screenshots may not look impressive, this should be welcome news for customers who are on the current platform who are either relying on customizations or manual processes to achieve this same functionality.


The tracing functionality in the new Utility Network builds upon the capabilities of the original geometric network and enables a whole new world of possibilities. I’m most excited by the prospect of finally being able to create scripts that can perform complex network analytics against my utility network features, something that isn’t possible for most customers on the ArcMap platform.

In the next few articles I’ll be going over several topics that will help demystify some of the big questions about how tracing works. I’m going to start off with exactly how the new model defines connectivity, then we’ll go over how you can set up portions of your network so that they model radial, parallel, or even meshed networks.

About the Author:

Robert is a Senior Consultant in POWER’s Geospatial and Asset Management group with over 10 years of industry experience. Robert excels at pushing the boundaries of what is possible with GIS and related technologies at utilities, often by repurposing proven technologies and methods in clever ways. As an active member of many early access programs across the industry and author of more than a dozen published articles, Robert is a recognized expert with Esri’s latest technology including ArcGIS Pro and the new Utility Network. He loves finding innovative solutions to complex challenges and sharing his insights with the GIS community. If you have any questions or comments for Robert, you can contact him at robert.krisher@powereng.com.