Friday, April 8, 2011

Extent of a SQL Server Spatial table

Extent of a SQL Server Spatial table

PostGIS does have a convenient spatial aggregation function: ST_Extent. SQL Server Spatial does not have that functionality. This little blog shows how to achieve its effect.


Given a table (e.g. called world1) with a geometry column (e.g. called geom), a call to the PostGIS function ST_Extent will give a neat box containing all geometries. For example:

select ST_Extent(geom) from world1;

returns a bounding box:

BOX(-180 -89.9,180 83.674733)

SQL Server Spatial

SQL Server Spatial follows OGC closely and therefore does not implement this functionality. Neither it has implemented it as a so-called extended geometry method. I've seen various creative solutions on the web, e.g. here and here and here. Most of these efforts are based on iterating through the rows, which is possible but often inconvenient (because of the required loop) and (also therefore) probably less performant. I will not say that my solution is performing better, but at least it is one SQL statement.

Be prepared on use of with, my current favorite SQL clause.  I described it earlier here.

So what happens: we define a sort of on-the-fly view of all the envelopes (select geom.MakeValid().STEnvelope() as envelope from world1). (The call to MakeValid() is only necessary if there might be invalid geometries in the table). Then we ask for the corner points of that viewy thingy. An envelope is a rectangle, always containing five points, where the fifth point is closing point and therefore the same as the first point. So either point 1 and 3, or point 2 and 4 are the opposite corners of a rectangle. So we take point 1 and point 3 (as done in first creative solution I referenced above). We define a second on-the-fly view of this, using the first view as input. To get both diagonally opposite points, we union them (union all is required). Note that I'm referring to an SQL union here, not to a spatial union.

Those on-the-fly views can be (very conveniently) implemented using with. I name them then viewy but that's up to you. So envelope_viewy is the first one and corner_viewy is the second one.

The complete SQL statement is then, for a column called geom in a table called world:

  envelope_viewy as
    select geom.MakeValid().STEnvelope() as envelope from world1
  corner_viewy as
    select envelope.STPointN(1) as point from envelope_viewy
    union all select envelope.STPointN(3) from envelope_viewy
select min(point.STX) as min_x,min(point.STY) as min_y,max(point.STX) as max_x,max(point.STY) as max_y
from corner_viewy

And voilĂ , you will get:
min_x    min_y    max_x    max_y
-180    -89.9    180    83.674733

The same! (Of course, I used the same table, world1, used from my shapefile research-still-to-be-finished).

You can also create a stored procedure of this (e.g. called ST_Extent).

PostGIS remark

Writing this blog, I noticed a strange thing of the PostGIS ST_Extent. It only works for 2D, there is explicitly written in the documentation that it does not work for 3D (use a ST_Extent3D for that). But it delivers a 3D box. And indeed it is explicitly typed as a 3D box. I wonder why.

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