Since its origin in the 1980s, development of open source software has picked up momentum and acceptance has become widespread. It is clearly not a passing fad and now forms the foundation of nearly every large and successful internet company, from open source providers like Red Hat to proprietary enterprises like Facebook, Google and Amazon. Although the term “open source” is often associated with “free,” the underlying concept has more to do with freedom for users to redistribute and modify software without license restrictions rather than with cost. Rapidly growing organizations benefit from the ability to build custom applications without worrying about intellectual property constraints, while the redistribution of applications encourages collaboration and continuous improvement.

To bridge the gap between traditional software procurement models and pure open source, OpenGeo, an early advocate of open source software, spun off from its parent organization OpenPlans to become Boundless in 2013. The new commercial firm offers services to clients in the private and public sectors related to open source software maintenance, spatial IT infrastructure, geospatial web application workflows, and data management and analysis tools. Boundless packages a variety of open source software together into OpenGeo Suite and offers consulting, training, and support for the software.

Although the primary components of OpenGeo Suite, such as PostGIS and GeoServer, are well known and have been in development for over ten years, piecing together an end-to-end solution can still be daunting. Through Amazon Web Services, it is possible to start using OpenGeo Suite in a hosted environment quickly and seamlessly.

“In my experience, when users start considering open source as a possibility for their organization, they first look at web services and web maps,” said Paul Ramsey, Vice President of Product Management at Boundless. “The next step is to use a spatial middleware like GeoServer, even though their database may still be Oracle. As they become more comfortable with open source and as their legacy systems need to be retired, they eventually make the decision to change everything to open source.”

“Open source software is particularly suitable for start-up businesses because there are no barriers to adoption from old IT choices and legacy systems,” said Ramsey. “However, even well established organizations like USGS, NOAA and Ordnance Survey are adopting open source as the advantages become more obvious.”

Some of the benefits of open source software include:
● Responsiveness: ability to develop a necessary application in-house rather than waiting for the vendor to release a new version of software
● Cloud readiness: rapid deployment is made possible by cloud hosts such as Amazon Web Services
● No license liability: tracking the number of licenses or restricting copies is not necessary
● Flexibility: allows users to add specific functionality as needed
● Motivation: empowers staff to creatively solve problems, which keeps them engaged
● Market power: many choices for databases, servers, libraries, etc., means not being locked into one vendor

The development of open source software capable of organizing, filtering and evaluating geospatial information has produced new opportunities and applications and blurred the lines between geospatial technology and information technology.

“We describe our business as spatial IT rather than GIS, because what everyone really needs are tools for querying and analyzing data, which just happen to be spatial in nature,” Ramsey explained. “We encourage users to establish an effective IT tool set which allows them to creatively address their spatial needs. Through Amazon and other services, I see us continuing to expand our solution offerings in ways that reduce the cost of deploying, maintaining, and managing open source software. In the future, we will add more virtualization and scalable clusters to avoid any load restrictions and offer more options, such as imagery services, telecommunications, location devices and services for the consumer market.”

From database to client, OpenGeo Suite has a robust and flexible architecture for building web applications.

 

OpenGeo Suite supports most geospatial data formats and services.

 

Examples of proprietary and open source software for database, application server and user interface solutions.