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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

OpenGeo Suite 4.8 Offers New Vector Tile Support and Much More

January 21st, 2016 by Susan Smith

GISCafe Voice spoke with Sean Brady, chief marketing officer of Boundless, a spatial IT solutions provider,  about the new release of OpenGeo Suite 4.8that offers the ability to serve Mapbox vector tiles from GeoServer directly.


GISCafe Voice: What was the workaround for vector tile support prior to this new technology that you’re announcing?

Sean Brady: 4.8 brings the ability to serve Mapbox vector tiles from GeoServer directly instead of needing to rely on a hosted provider.   Prior to this release, GeoServer still provided an impressive number of raster and vector formats and this release adds a vector tiles to that list.

Vector tiles support has been available in OpenLayers since October 2015, and has proven to work great with vector tiles from traditional sources like Mapbox or OpenStreetMap. We’re especially excited because now GeoServer and OpenLayers together provide a complete client-server offering.

Vector tiles open new possibilities such as small bandwidth usage even with high resolution displays, or animated visualisations with dynamic styles, or instant access to feature attributes…the list goes on!

GISCafe Voice: Is there a comparison of time savings or viewing ease that you can outline with this new MapBox Vector Tile Support?

Sean Brady: Vector tiles provide benefit with faster data transfer over slow internet connections – users users are able to visualize map content more quickly as the map is delivered in easier-to-consume pieces. It’s difficult to qualify as you’re dealing with challenges of internet bandwidth and processing, but vector tiles are significantly more efficient.

GISCafe Voice: Can you describe a typical workflow in which this support will be useful?

Sean Brady: Organizations may wish to serve an end user base who access maps from a variety of different locations, internet speeds, and devices. Vector tiles are more useful for this population.

In addition to the benefits to the speed and size benefits of vector tiles, labeling of features is more robust than traditional raster renderings.  In a typical navigation application raster tiles would be displayed with rotated labels that could become hard to read at certain angles. With vector tiles, labels can always be kept at an angle that is easy to read.

GISCafe Voice: What other suites/formats are you looking at adding this tile support to in the future?

Sean Brady: The Mapbox GL JS styles specification will soon be supported in OpenLayers 3. On top of that, support for other common style formats, like SLD, can easily be added.

GISCafe Voice: Will you be working on other technologies to add to the OpenGeo Suite and others?

Sean Brady: Boundless is always working with our customers and the open source community to bring upgrades and new functionality into OpenGeo Suite. In addition, we’ll continue to work on bug fixes and component upgrades in support of our customers.

Boundless has a huge amount planned for 2016 and we’re going to be making a big push towards making the Suite easier to use all-around.  This means easier to deploy to the cloud, easier to find, share and version data, easier to scale, and easier to publish full web applications.

OpenGeo Suite 4.8 represents a significant advancement for organizations looking to leverage the power and cost-effectiveness of open source software to manage geospatial data and create maps across web, mobile, and desktop applications. New capabilities and enhancements in Version 4.8 include:

  • Support for Mapbox Vector Tile and other vector tile formats. Vector tiles serve map information in smaller, more efficient units and offload the generation of the final images to the end device. As an important element for the ongoing adoption of open source geospatial strategies, Boundless has added support for vector tile output in Mapbox Vector Tile, GeoJSON, and TopoJSON open source formats to its instance of GeoServer.
  • NetCDF (Network Common Data Format) support, enabling OpenGeo Suite users to perform more powerful analysis of atmospheric and meteorological data
  • Improved rendering and JPEG compression, providing significantly accelerated output performance
  • The included instance of GeoServer is updated to version 2.8, adding features including Z-order rendering, contrast enhancement, and PostGIS curve support.

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Categories: Boundless, cloud, data, field GIS, geospatial, GIS

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