Our Insights

Network Management: Network Tiers and Configurations

September 1, 2017

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

Previous articles in this series covered how to model your data, how you can analyze your data, and how you can establish logical and analytical relationships between different features in your system.

This final article will go over how the objects in a model can be organized into different units for analytical and reporting purposes and how different constraints can be applied to each unit. In the case of electrical models, this typically involves modelling different radial or meshed circuits, while in the case of gas networks this consists of defining cathodic protection systems or pressure systems.

Network Tiers

In the past the ArcGIS models were fairly limited in the types of network they could model out of the box. The new model overcomes this by providing the flexibility for each domain network to define a series of tiers. Each tier defines a set of rules that describe the types of objects that can participate in that tier of the network, the rules that determine where systems originate and terminate within a tier, and whether the tracing algorithm for that tier should use a radial or mesh network tracing algorithm.


With all of the theory and definitions out of the way, the best thing to do now is show several traditional and innovative ways that tiers can be used to meet common requirements for utilities planning on making use of the new network management platform.

Radial Distribution Circuits

A radial distribution circuit in the new model is what most clients consider to be a standard circuit. It has a single circuit source (B), broadcasts power through medium voltage equipment, and terminates at open devices or dead ends. One important distinction in the new model is whether you want to draw a line between your medium voltage and low voltage radial networks.

Multi-fed Radial Circuits

The next common tier for electric distribution models a multi-fed radial tier. In this model, each subnetwork can have more than one  subnetwork controller (B), but traces within the network are assumed to not contain loops.

The following example shows a situation where two distribution circuits are running in parallel and they are both acting as sources to a 4kV substation (R).

Low Voltage Radial Circuits

In the current model, most customers are modelling both their medium voltage and low voltage networks as a single, continuous tier. However, in the new model you can now elect to model the low voltage components of your network as their own separate tier. While this may sound strange at first this approach does have some practical benefits. For customers who are currently only modelling their networks down to the transformer, this model provides a way to bring the customer linkages into the GIS via the logical connectivity model without affecting any of the tracing or editing behaviors of your current GIS. For customers who are modelling connectivity down to the premise or meter, this approach will provide a mechanism for associating customers with their corresponding transformer without the need to write any custom code or extractors.

Mesh Circuits

One of the most exciting pieces of new functionality is the Mesh topology type in the network model. This allows for their tools to model looped networks with multiple sources, allowing for the software to model the complex secondary mesh networks typically found in larger cities as well as the looped topologies found in transmission and some sub-transmission networks.


Given the emphasis that Esri has placed on data quality and accurate modelling, it’s good to see that the new platform will finally be able to accurately model the way features are connected without any workarounds or customizations.

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.