May 17, 2010
Open Source Extends it Reach
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Some people in county government are going all open source using desktop tools, commercial software. The primary reason for this is that it comes down to licensing fees. In those organizations, they still need to have a developer on staff for IT to support application, so there is no additional cost to using open source.

There was concern initially about security with regard to using open source. However, the U.S. government uses up to 60% open source for cruise missile weapons systems. The U.S. military believes that if the software is under scrutiny of many people it is more secure than software that has been seen and tested by only a few software developers. With open source, the community makes sure that security holes are plugged and software is secure.

What it Costs

No one really knows what it costs to use open source, and there are a number of misperceptions surrounding its use. There is no licensing cost with open source, no matter what application you are running.

In the past, users needed to be developers to implement open source, but nowadays products like MapGuide Open source come with a full executable that installs just like a commercial product. Just about any administrator who has computer savvy that can set up MapGuide Enterprise can set up MapGuide Open Source. Many open source offerings use MySQL as a database, around which there is a full free GUI or user interface.

This type of offering changes the support aspect of ownership. “One of the reasons people will choose an Autodesk product such as MapGuide Enterprise over MapGuide Open Source is that it is backed by Autodesk,” said Christian. “That means we have personnel who are providing support and users can reach them either via the web or via phone, and we will do our best to fix any problems that arise. We have been able to slipstream fixes through the open source community that are actually reaching our customers faster than we could do it ourselves. We will roll it into our software code down the road.”

Zeiss made the point that open source is just as commercial as proprietary software, noting that Red Hat's market capitalization was around $6 billion the last time he looked. Other companies such as Oracle and Autodesk have a mix of both proprietary and open source so there are no exact figures on open source.

Open source becomes a cheaper alternative in some countries where the price of proprietary software is comparatively high.

“For Autodesk, open source is just another channel to market to a segment of developers and users that we might not reach with our commercial offerings,” concluded Zeiss. However, there are some applications the company feels are better achieved with closed proprietary software and some that are better achieved with open source.

OpenGeo Web Mapping Environment

Eddie Pickle and Paul Ramsey of OpenGeo spoke about their new release, OpenGeo Suite Version 1.0, a fully featured web mapping environment for serving maps and data through web applications, mobile devices, and desktop clients. Their perspective is that open source provides “certain advantages to pricing and scaling that we can pass on to our clients.”

Pickle said that when he worked for proprietary software companies the question would arise about what would happen to the customers if the firm went out of business. He said this is not a problem when you deal with the open source community.

“One of the things we've tried to do with all the components that are part of the open geospatial suite is make sure there's a strong community of people actively involved in the development and the feature extensions of each of those software components,” said Pickle. “I can't speak for all companies, there are a lot of companies with open source legacy code, I'm not sure there would exist in that situation someone who could take the place of the prime developer who left. But speaking specifically about the components within the OpenGeo Suite, there's a very strong community of developers in each of those communities. Clients know there will be a deep bench of
developers who can work on those components and either help them as they make their applications work or do extensions.”

Guidance on Military Use of Open Source Software

In an article in the October, 2009 issue of Government Computer News (GCN), it was stated that the U.S. Defense Department has issued a guidance on the use of open source software in the military. Although the military has been a proponent and widespread user of open source software for a long time, the DoD has had questions around procurement and its use as a viable option.

Top News of the Week

M.O.S.S., a leading German provider of spatial-based information and technology solutions, announced the release of its INSPIRE-ready geodata management solution, INSPIRE.Insight.

Leveraging M.O.S.S.' consultancy expertise and innovative software for spatial data management, INSPIRE.Insight provides an end-to-end solution specifically aimed at helping organisations meet their obligations to publish and share geospatial data in compliance with the INSPIRE framework.

ESRI has released its 2010/2015 Updated Demographics data, which offers more than 2,000 data variables, including current-year estimates and 2015 forecasts for 11 different geographies from national to block group levels. This data can help identify areas of high unemployment, adjustments in the housing market, rising vacancy rates, changes in income and consumer spending, and increased population diversity. Agencies, businesses, and organizations can use the data to analyze trends, identify growth, and reveal new market opportunities.

Electric utilities can now access the ArcGIS Data Model for MultiSpeak, a ready-to-use geodatabase template that conforms to the latest release of the widely used, industry-standard MultiSpeak specification. The ArcGIS Data Model for MultiSpeak meets the needs of ArcGIS users who design and maintain electric networks and associated infrastructure in the United States.

Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

AssetWorks, a provider of technology and professional consulting solutions for asset and infrastructure-intensive organizations, announced it has enhanced its solution offering with the acquisition of the assets of InCircuit Development Corporation. The acquisition adds InCircuit's
EAM) software to the AssetWorks solution portfolio.

Trimble announced that it has reached an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") with respect to its audit of Trimble's income tax returns for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007. As part of the audit, the IRS examined the valuation and payment arrangement for the 2006 license of specified Trimble intellectual property rights to a foreign-based Trimble subsidiary. The consideration for this license was established based on the Company's estimate of the ongoing royalties that would have been received in a similar license arrangement to an unrelated third-party licensee.

GEOspatial Professional Solutions Inc. (GPSi) has contracted with Vexcel Imaging GmbH, a Microsoft company, to purchase an UltraCamL medium format camera system.


ESRI is providing a number of support activities for the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Working closely with dozens of agencies and the geographic information system (GIS) community, ESRI has deployed its disaster response team to provide assistance to users in local, state, and federal government agencies as well as the private sector. The team is supplying software, technical support, GIS data, and personnel.

ESRI is also providing support and services through its

Richard Saul Wurman published his first book in 1962 at age 26, he began the singular passion of his life: making difficult information easily understandable. Wurman, now a prolific author and creator of the TED (technology/entertainment/design) conferences, will speak at the
2010 ESRI International User Conference (ESRI UC) in July. He will discuss his latest project, called
19.20.21, and how geographic information system (GIS) technology plays a part in it.

In April 2010,
GISCorps , a program of the
Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) , received a request for a volunteer from one of its long-time partners, the Information Management and Mine Action Program (iMMAP). This project was GISCorps' 60th mission.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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