MapServer Foundation - Open Letter
gary.lang at AUTODESK.COM
Wed Nov 30 17:45:39 EST 2005
From: UMN MapServer Users List [mailto:MAPSERVER-USERS at LISTS.UMN.EDU] On
Behalf Of Jason Birch
Sent: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 1:45 PM
To: MAPSERVER-USERS at LISTS.UMN.EDU
Subject: Re: [UMN_MAPSERVER-USERS] MapServer Foundation - Open Letter
I'd like to bring my perspective into the discussion, as someone who is
not part of the Mapserver community and has been brought in by the
I work for the City of Nanaimo, but am not speaking for them officially
in this email. We currently use MapGuide 6.5 as our "enterprise"
mapping solution. I have a strong affinity for open source projects,
and I have in the past downloaded Mapserver and taken the time to learn
how to use it, evaluating it as a potential replacement for our current
system. I was unable to make the business case because of some
capability gaps between the two products. When I learned that Autodesk
was granting its new product's code to the Mapserver Foundation I was
elated (after I convinced myself that I wasn't hallucinating). Finally,
I have a lever that allows me to promote and implement open source
systems. In several cases, this is the only barrier I have to promoting
a switch from Win2k3/MSSQL to Linux/PostGIS. I also can't wait until I
can just pay a developer to add functionality to my web mapping
application instead of having to either wait until the vendor decides to
implement it or hacking around it myself with no benefit accruing to the
other users of the software.
I understand that there are huge issues with the community's loyalty and
ownership of the Mapserver code and brand, and I don't think that this
should be discounted. I also realize that I don't have any right to
weigh in on this one way or another. What I would like to make clear is
that having the Autodesk code as an open source web mapping tool really
increases the number of organisations that will be looking at open
source GIS. Will the new code directly contribute to Mapserver? I
don't know; there are definitely some innovative designs and portions of
the code that would be great additions to Mapserver. Would Autodesk
going off on its own and releasing this code as open source have
diminished the Mapserver community? I believe so. Each of the
applications has their strengths, and like any addition to the open
source project slate there would be some cannibalisation of current
Mapserver users and contributors. This may happen anyway, but if they
are both under the same organisation they can share in the contributions
that the newly attracted users will be bringing with them.
I have heard a lot of people comment on the size of the Autodesk code.
That size is directly proportional to its potential functionality. If
you doubt this, read through the as-yet-incomplete API documentation
that is an optional install with the Web Extensions. There is huge
potential there for data update, geoprocessing, spatial web services,
and other items that would be difficult to implement with Mapserver.
Those of you who take the time to understand the Autodesk code and
expand your consulting and implementation services to incorporate this
code base will ultimately benefit from using it where it is justified.
I hope that you do because I (and others like me) will be looking for
you in the near future.
To address Gary Lang's question about MapGuide being a project of the
Mapserver Foundation... Renaming the foundation would certainly address
your concern and may be the best path to supporting additional open
source projects, but I don't think that it's necessary. I for one
believe that the new application can stand on its own merit, no matter
its name. (For the record, I don't particularly like the MapGuide name
as it's associated with the existing MapGuide application, and there is
no comparison). Placing the application under the Mapserver Foundation
would in no way diminish its inherent capabilities or suitability for
applications where it is the correct choice for implementation.
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