While based on open standards such as ebXML and GML, the SDI Framework does not require the participants to know or be aware of these standards, nor need they change existing applications or databases. The framework provides the foundation for collaborative infrastructures that can be deployed at the urban level. This ensures that data is obtained closest to the source, and that it is current, accurate, and in context.
Note further that a set of data suppliers is shown in the bottom part of the diagram, any data consumer (such as the engineering, and design systems tools shown in the top part) can also be a data supplier. The data suppliers in the bottom half are distinguished only in that there are typically government and private sector data collection activities (e.g. aerial, land survey, property management) which are not directly part of the engineering and planning process.
Conventional ideas of an SDI have been driven by national mapping agencies and have been largely focused on the resources to catalogue and provide access (portals) to small scale maps and related data sets.
Over time, geospatial data have become more distributed as different departments, organizations, and government agencies need different data models and distributed locations need to access geospatial data locally. The role of the spatial infrastructure is to enable database synchronization by enabling the user specified creation/maintenance of publication subscription relationships between the participating databases. This allows for efficient movement of data, and is relatively non-intrusive with respect to the use of existing design, engineering analysis, engineering and architectural visualization, and mapping tools.