Saturday, September 19, 2009

Map Technology Overview

I've been on a technology review of late. Mostly driven by client requests. I never cease to be amazed by what is now available. So far my thoughts in brief:

Mapserver is a pain to configure. Manually writing mapfiles, takes me back to the days of ArcIMS and axl files. Geoserver is far easier in every respect. It has a terrific admin interface. Setting up basic map services, WMS, WFS is easy. Exporting in formats read by google maps etc is also a piece of cake. If it were not for the need of a full application server, the choice of geospatial server would be easy. Geoserver also allows for easy generation of Georss, KML and viewing of map layers in openlayers.

Caching and tiling is another area which favours Geoserver. Geowebcache is integrated into geoserver. No need for additional work. The config screen allows for easy seeding. Mapserver works with tilecache. From the work I have done so far you tile mapserver by calling tilecache and passing the mapserver url.

I'm still working with openlayers but am so far very impressed. One thing I already notice is how much is there. I really like the Modest Maps Flex library. But with a smaller community, it does not have the same depth of code. I'm still playing here, so more feedback later.

I'd like to know one of the big fours - mapquest, MSN, Yahoo and Google - API's. I lean towards mapquest, largely due to the feedback I have read and my impressions from conferences. I recently signed up for their developer account. A couple of people were soon emailing me with contact info. On one side I thought this great, since support might be more forthcoming. On the other side, money reared its ugly head. Use of this service beyond local testing has a price tag! Reminds me why I so favour open source.

Other areas on my radar at the moment beyond testing the mapquest API include:
- Geodjango testing
- PostGIS and shapefile write up
- Javascript to Flex/Flash communication

I'll write more on this in due course. I asked Paul Ramsey (OpenGeo and PostGIS author) his thoughts on Geoserver versus Mapserver. Here is his repy:

If you are deep into OGC standards, Geoserver has a big advantage in
completeness of implementations of things like SLD and WFS. (Less on

I did a talk last year which, though tongue-in-cheek addresses the
more important differences. Which are philosophical more than anything
else. Scriptable web rendering engine vs complete spatial web

Most of the speed differences are gone at this point, they perform
very comparably for common use cases.


Faridur R Choudhury said...

You should try Quantum GIS to create map files. It has a python plugin which lets you export your QGIS layers as map files. I personally prefer Geoserver for the J2EE projects but for .net, Mapserver is the best option.

Matt Sheehan said...

After working with Geoserver, I agree. It is so much easier to configure. My only reservation is the need for an application server. But that's a minor concern outweighed by the benefits.