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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
MapGuide Open Source now a Fully Endorsed Project
by Susan Smith
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A year after its launch, MapGuide Open Source, developed within the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) now debuts as a fully endorsed project. Originally developed as Autodesk MapGuide software by Autodesk, Inc., and released to the open source community in 2006, MapGuide Open Source is a Web-based platform that enables users to develop and publish online mapping applications and geospatial web services.
GISWeekly spoke with Bob Bray, geospatial architect for Autodesk and OSGeo vice president – MapGuide Open Source, who has been with Autodesk for 10 years, his chief job working on the MapGuide product, although he has also worked in location based services as well. MapGuide Open Source underwent an incubation process, in which the project's community of more than 600 members actively engaged in development and application efforts to validate the software's functionality, viability and support.
Bob Bray: With respect to OSGeo, the goal of the incubation process is to make sure that the project, when it’s graduated from the incubation, is running as a healthy open source project. That means a number of things: a check through the code to make sure there’s nothing in there – there’s no code borrowed from anywhere, you know where all the code came from, under the project license. Autodesk wrote most of it and donated it. The other thing is the project has to be run and advantaged in an open way. The biggest part of that for us was establishing the project steering committee and that consists of seven people. Three are Autodesk staffers, four are outsiders. They are responsible for making all the decisions with respect to how the project runs, including which features go and don’t go into the project. There’s a very open development model around that. Any change in the project, be it source code or political in nature, like joining OSGeo, goes through the process we call the RFC process, which is a Request for Comment document where you basically describe the motivation for the change, what the change is, if it’s a software change, and then those RFCs are discussed on the mailing list, and are either rejected or accepted by the steering committee.
We have about 19 RFCs now, mainly additions to the source code and additions to the project source code. It’s not required for anything like bug fixes but is required for any major change, changes to API, file formats, XML schemas or any major feature additions or architectural changes. That’s one of the biggest parts of the process for us. The Autodesk staffers and myself chair the steering committee. I am the software manager of the project and the internal architect responsible for MapGuide technical. There are three people from the outside community: Jason Birch, City of Nanaimo, Andy Morsell, Spatial Integrators, Inc., Paul Spencer, DM Solutions Group, and Haris Kurtagic – SL-King.
GISWeekly: What decided the Urban Forest Mapping project folks to use this open format for their project?
Bob Bray: They are going to make the solution they built available to other organizations. They’re going to make the source code and data available to other cities and organizations that are working on similar projects. This is quite encouraging.
GISWeekly: How would someone make a decision as to whether to use MapGuide Enterprise or MapGuide Open Source?
Bob Bray: Most of the code base in the two products is identical. There’s actually one code base for MapGuide, which is the Open Source code base. The differences are primarily, the enterprise version has the same coordinate package that Map uses, so there’s a little higher degree of consistency with Map using the commercial package. It also comes with our Oracle and SQL Server providers for FDO for open data access. For most organizations, it’s a matter of whether or not they’re willing to accept Open Source into their organization or not and how much Open Source they accept. I’ve seen three trends that are emerging with regard to MapGuide Enterprise and MapGuide Open Source. I’ve seen organizations who have just plain adopted MapGuide Open Source. There are other organizations who are taking a middle of the road approach. They are going to deploy their solutions on MapGuide Enterprise and use MapGuide Open Source to do the development. That’s because we are releasing features and bug fixes at a faster rate on the Open Source version so they can test things out earlier. There are other organizations, who, for whatever reason, IT infrastructure, or politics, are not ready to accept Open Source and will go with Enterprise. The software’s 100% compatible. You can build a solution for Open Source, deploy it on Enterprise, and you can build a solution for Enterprise and move it to Open Source.
GISWeekly: What interest are you having from countries outside North America?
Bob Bray: We have a fair bit of interest from Spain some interest in Germany, Asia Pacific and India.
GISWeekly: What is the next step now that you have a fully endorsed product?
Bob Bray: Evolution wise, our plan is to continue to develop and embrace the open source philosophy so we’ll continue to do most of our development in the Open Source project and in an open way. One of the things that most recently happened, we’re starting to get third party source code contributions so people are actually giving back additions to the product. That’s very encouraging to me because it’s not a simple piece of source code, it’s a fairly complex product and so far it’s been at the periphery. A couple of weeks ago, we got three enhancements to the AJAX viewer from a developer in Brazil. The enhancements allow you to do things like use the zoom wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out which is something we hadn’t implemented yet. We were planning to. You can click on the status bar where it displays the scale and it will bring up an edit box and you can type in a scale. He also added a Visi indicator to the title bar to show when it was loading applications to the server. These are small enhancements that will be incorporated both in Open Source and the Enterprise version.
The other thing we’re looking to do is promote more activity around developers enhancing and working with the source code base. We’ve been working a lot with DM Solutions and they’ve made a number of enhancements which we’ll eventually bring into the product.
GISWeekly: What did you demonstrate at the Location Intelligence Conference?
Bob Bray: I presented an interoperability workshop with some other members of the Open Source community showing a lot of the Open Source GIS packages working together. Chris Holmes of the Open Planning Project had a postGIS database, and I showed some edits with a project called Quantum GIS which is another open source viewer/editor, putting that data on the web with MapGuide. Chris showed serving up the same data up through his GeoServer Project which is a Java based WFS. MapGuide and GeoServer interacted by passing information back and forth through WFS. That was a well received workshop.
The other talk I gave was around MapGuide and the Google Earth integration. One of the more recent changes for MapGuide is direct support for KML. Going through Google network links, you can send a request to MapGuide and it will return the data pre-stylized as you set it up in the studio. I showed that now we can support polygon extrusions. The example I gave was a building model in Chicago where the buildings were actually themed by their height in Google Earth. This was with the Open Source version. It will eventually be available in both. Through feedback from the community we’ll put these pieces into the Enterprise version. It’s a great opportunity to get user feedback before putting functionality into the commercial version.