Autodesk Open-Sources Web Mapping Software

Source code for the MapServer Enterprise platform is slated for release in early 2006.

Autodesk Inc. plans to release the full code of MapServer Enterprise, its new Web mapping platform, to open source early next year.

A snapshot of the MapServer Enterprise source code is available today through the recently established MapServer Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to support and promote open-source Web mapping.

The full code is expected to be available early next year when the projects Web site is up and running, Gary Lang, vice president of engineering for Autodesks Infrastructure Solutions Division, told eWEEK.

The project site will support code contributions, as well as bug submissions, mailing lists and discussion forums.

"The snapshot of the code available today is not in its final release state. All the build scripts arent fully baked yet, but we wanted to get the code out there for people to look at," Lang said.

"Members of the MapServer community have been given access to the full code, under a nondisclosure agreement, for them to look at, comment on, and figure out what they might want to do with it going forward."

MapServer Enterprise, which would have been the next version of Autodesks MapGuide product, code-named Tux, enables developers to develop and deploy spatial applications, and works with the latest PHP, .Net and Java tools so that applications for Windows or Linux server environments can be built.

Developers can also publish spatial views internally, over the Web, or using Autodesks DWF viewing technology for offline portability, Lang said, adding that the move was swayed by customer desire for faster innovation, more product releases and a lower total cost of ownership.

"The reason we did this is that it is the kind of software that converts well to open source, as it is very request-response oriented. Customers had also been asking us to include the WMS [Web Map Server] open protocol for rendering images, which is supported by the OGC [Open GIS Consortium]," he said.

"But that initially it did not pass the threshold of user interest for us to put it in the requirements and get it into the product release cycle. However, as requests for that grew, we realized that, for this kind of software, it would be much better to allow developers to do this themselves. They would have been a lot happier with us and our products if they had been allowed to do that," Lang said.

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read the Q&A PDF document Autodesk has issued on its move into open source, click here.

Lang said there was also growing support for open-source Web mapping, while Autodesk was, at the same time, also focusing on building applications on top of MapServer, as this was the more lucrative revenue component compared to the map serving part.

Autodesk will also make available the source code for its FDOs (feature data objects) technology, which provides an API for accessing any type of spatial information, and will contribute nearly a dozen FDO "providers" to the open-source project, including ArcSDE, WFS, WMS, SHP, ODBC and MySQL.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about Autodesks cross-licensing deal with Microsoft.

The company also said it plans to offer a commercial version of the product, called Autodesk MapServer Enterprise, in 2006, as well as an authoring environment that handles geospatial data collection and preparation of the data for distribution via the Internet.

The new MapServer Foundations charter members include members of the MapServer Technical Steering Committee, the University of Minnesota MapServer Project, the DM Solutions Group and Autodesk.

The MapServer Foundations site also features the original MapServer platform, an open-source Web mapping platform that has been available since 1997 and that sees more than 10,000 downloads a month.

MapServer will be called MapServer Cheetah in the future so as to differentiate it from the new MapServer Enterprise.

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