OpenGeo Suite: A GIS Software great example, thought upon the OSGeo model’s weaknesses

To this day, at least in the geospatial environment, any professional with neutral thinking recognizes that open source software is as mature as commercial software, and in some ways superior to it.

The standards strategy worked very wisely. While it is questionable its balance update against the required energy for technological developments, perhaps was what laid the foundation for the success in other endeavors such as community, philosophical approach, economics and other ideas that were used to justify the model, which ultimately are also needed.

However, sell Open Source solutions is not easy in business or government environments for many reasons that partly are rooted in competition but also as the inevitable result of the model weaknesses, which must evolve and coexist with proprietary software. Decision-makers make themselves questions such as:

  • If one morning as result of other platforms updates appears a problem, in aspects such as safety, who would responds to the moment we need support, and at what price so as to leave it budgeted?

  • Given the range of alternatives in language, libraries, client solutions, web solutions, etc. what combination must we choose to ensure the closest full compatibility?

OpenGeo Suite is a solution that not only leverages all the maturity of the available tools, but it also aims to respond to these model weaknesses. In addition to giving the community a solution that can enhance their development efforts, creates a thread so as the involved components can guide its evolution, and for businesses, OpenGeo Suite provides the required seriousness for deciding on open source. While there are other companies, after some time of trying this alternative, there was not other choice for me that to recognize the high capacity and creativity of the thinking team behind Boundless, the creative company of this solution.

geoserver gis

Let’s take some look at what the OpenGeo Suite approach implies:

What tools does OpenGeo Suite include?

geoserver opengeoHaving so many solution options is not bad, it is normal, although somewhat complicates how to ensure the tools selection in integrated production processes. A wrong choice can get expensive if we realize about it when we have invested efforts in research, development, training, and above all, unrecoverable time.

For example, only in language development terms, we have a puzzle resulting from the community needs, many of them doing exactly the same, other emulating in other way; some with unique features in simple routines that we would already like all to have them. Let’s see this separation by features and languages, although I must be honest, the categorization is not exclusive and in some cases it’s difficult to distinguish the border:

  • At client level which is the most popular context are: QGis, Grass, ILWIS, SAGA, Kapaware based on C++. gvSIG, Jump, uDIG, Kosmo, LocalGIS, GeoPista, SEXTANTE based on Java. MapWindow, by its ActiveX side is based on .NET.
  • In libraries we have: GDAL, OGR, Proj4, FDO, GEOS on C++. GeoTools, WKB4J, JTS and Baltic based on Java. NTS, GeoTools.NET, SharpMap working on .NET.
  • In terms of web solutions, which are now taking great boom: MapServer, MapGuide OS on C++, GeoServer, Degree, Geonetwork on Java. OpenLayers, Leaflet and Ka -Map in Javascript, MapFish on Python, MapBender in PHP/Javascript.
  • As databases’ regards, Postgres is the undisputed dominant, but also there are other solutions.

The above shows that it is possible to mount a system almost in any environment. What’s more, many of them even though they were born in a language now supported others. Many of them were also born as client but are capable of managing web data and, in cases like Open Layers, is even possible to develop in a web-based environment almost everything that is done on a client tool.

Which free software combination must we use?

OpenGeo suite decided on QGis as a desktop client, that, at this point, already deserves an items’ category in eGeomate. For web they chose GeoServer as data server which runs on Tomcat, Jetty as runtime Java environment, GeoWebCache for the tessellation and OpenLayers as library although this last option hasn’t a required registration considering solutions as Leaflet that is growing with great success especially by its model based on Plugins and its potential with mobile applications. Look that they could go for a single language’s line but now I’d like to see the analysis matrix that has led them to this definition.

Let’s be clear, anyone can implement these solutions by individual. What OpenGeo contains is an installer with these components’ versions with improvements that make more efficient tedious routines; for example:

  • The installer makes mounting sharply. You can choose which components you want to install, remove or uninstall. For those who have dealt with a Java runtime engine and the happy ‘Error 503’ will know its utility.
  • There are different installers: Windows, Mac OS X, CentOS / RHEL, Fedora, Ubuntu and Application Servers.
  • The latest 4.02 version brings PostgreSQL 9.3.1, PostGIS 2.1.1, GeoTools 10 GeoWebCache 2.4.3 and GeoServer 1.5, in addition supports OpenLayers 3.
  • In the start menu are created direct links to stop or start GeoServer and Postgres; also to raise the user interface for shapefiles’ data loading to Postgres (shp2psql) and also to access the PostGis (PgAdmin) database
  • Also in the start menu there is an access to the localhost, which in this version removes the version 3 client’s interface, with a clean control panel to GeoServer, GeoWebCache and GeoExplorer services.
  • This product, GeoExplorer, is a Boundless impressive development based on GeExt that serves as a data viewer for GeoServer, allows the data upload from a local file or from a data store, and can set color, lines thickness, transparency, labeling, including rules and saving directly on the geoServer style file (sld). No one in its right mind works this only with code and GeoExplorer is an excellent solution –although it does more things
  • geoserver boundlessThe GeoServer installed version includes a link to the data import, and can create origins from local shape layers, including PostGis with which information from a database can be moved to another included from the Localhost to a hosted service; it is interesting that this data upload solves OGR2OGR problems that unless they are done with console line, throw difficulties when multipolygon layer is raised, because the default is a simple polygon
  • In this case, the WPS services appear because in the install option I decided to integrate them.
  • At the installation time, you can add GeoServer Add-ons like CSS Styling, CSW, Clustering, and support for GDAL images libraries. There is also an add-on for PostGIS which supports points’ clouds on the database and as client you can also install GDAL/OGR. For developers there is option to install Webapp SDK and GeoScript.
  • Unlike my version hosted on the server, I see that there are more possible data sources that surely can be added, but in the version case that comes with the OpenGeo Suite, brings text delimited by commas, H2, H2 JNDI, SQL Server, OGR, Oracle and a handful of possibilities in raster backgrounds.

What about Qgis?

  • The best of all, because for Qgis was created a great plugin called OpenGeo explorer with which you can interact with the Postgres base and also with GeoServer. From here you can edit the sld, move layers, layer groups, edit names, delete, view workspaces, layers in cache, etc.
  • If a layer is removed, the sld is removed, all this is configurable and eventually achieves a job from the client controlling what is above, and the synchronization can be using the REST API.
  • By now what does not have is shp2psql but I won’t be surprised that later they integrate it into the same panel, perhaps as transparent as the Spit plugin that, unlike the UI, store connections, can upload several layers in block, the progress bar is more realistic and error messages are more understandable.

With this, OpenGeo Suite is not saying that this is the magic recipe. But certainly will move much of the community to this preference, especially because companies that sell courses may prefer to teach this route which guarantees a shorter learning curve.

The combo is compatible with other tools that can be mounted on the server.

The impact that comes with OpenGeo Suite

We’ll see what impact this has on the community; because behind Boundless there are people with much experience in this field, which has been involved in the tools and libraries development that now make the sector sustainable. But especially with expertise in entrepreneurship and marketing services, which often is wasted from the technical level. To mention at least six:

  • Eddie Pickle and Ken Bossung, IONIC founders, company that bought ERDAS in 2007 and is now owned by Leica.

  • Andreas Hocevar and Bart van den Eijnden, which were immersed in OpenLayers 2 and GeoExt development.

  • Victor Olaya, who left us this legacy of SEXTANTE,

  • Paul Ramsey, the PostGIS first initiators.

Another positive impact is on the big company’s formality that, without becoming a market monster, – which is always a risk-, brings formality to competing against private sector companies in areas such as support, credibility, security and quality control over the developments.

boundlessThe Boundless services offer has, ranging from platform migration to annual support services seems consistent with the corporate and institutional market which gradually understands the difference of having local and business support. It should not be easy this market, but we see with pleasure how institutions mature in thought, considering the software development and information as an asset, so was the way they made it through from assigning auto mechanic work for its motorists to hire specialized insurance and services to distribution companies .

In the open source model, there is opportunity for everybody. So what Boundless offers, is there, with an opportunity to be a partner; beyond is the ability of those who wish to enhance their ability to services sale in the implementation, training, support or development field. The example seems us valuable and with good lessons to learn and complement the effort which by other means leads the gvSIG Foundation, which we will discuss on another occasion.

Download OpenGeo Suite.

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