GeoServer 1.3.2 released (and gets some funding from Google)

Both Chris Holmes and Brian Timoney wrote in to make sure I blogged the release of GeoServer 1.3.2 today (press release). As I’m easing back into the blogging after that lovely little break, I thought I might let them do the explaining, as their emails are succinct and articulate:

Chris Holmes writes:

I work on GeoServer, an open source server of geospatial information. I noticed you caught the KML support in our last release. I was wondering if you might post a bit more about our latest release. The thing of note is obiously KML/KMZ output, so you can connect with a network link. This work was actually partially sponsored by Google themselves, in order to make life easier on people looking to expose data on Google Earth. Instead of having everyone write their own network link software from scratch it made sense to just fund an existing, solid open source server.

GeoServer has been around for a few years, and the community has written connectors for PostGIS, ArcSDE, DB2, Oracle Spatial, MySQL, Shapefiles and more. It produces maps and raw spatial data in a variety of formats through open WFS and WMS standards. The Google Network Link works quite well with WMS, so we just made things easier to connect with a built-in KML reflector, and made KML/KMZ as one of the output formats. So it’ll be most useful for power users, who have lots of data to get out, where a single KML file might slow GE too much.

There is also a feature to let users decide if they want Placemarks or Ground Overlay representations of the same data. So we’ve put a good amount in to making it easy to make network links, and as an open source project others can help contribute to grow even more advanced GE capabilities, such as 2.5d and 3d data serving, and support for streaming in KML 2.1

I work for a non-profit called The Open Planning Project, and we basically do this to make spatial information more available, for things like urban planning and beyond. Google Earth is obviously a great visualization engine, so we’re excited to interoperate with it. Anyways, I hope this might be of interest for your readers.

Brian Timoney makes these points in his email:

Other than GE 4/KML 2.1 I think this is a very important development for the following:

  1. The implementation of KML as an output combined with the number of enterprise back-ends that it connects to: Oracle, DB2, PostGIS, and most intriguingly–ArcSDE.
  2. A tighter connection between KML and the WMS/WFS standards.
  3. The fact that Google contributed $$$ to the latest development effort

Between Google kicking money GeoServer’s way along with the added functionality of KML 2.1, I’ve been heartened by the attention to enhancing the abilities to stream ‘big data’ through the interface without resorting to the Enterprise/Fusion options…

It leaves me wondering how GeoServer compares with ESRI’s ArcIMS. It’s an honest question — is GeoServer now good enough for a good chunk of the server needs that were previously met by ArcIMS? Any GIS pros care to weigh in?

I ask only because Google’s support for GeoServer looks like a similar competitive play to ESRI making ArcGIS Explorer free. With a free ArcGIS Explorer, Google can’t really develop an entry-level analysis tool and expect to charge for it. With a free GeoServer, ESRI might find it hard to continue asking money for ArcIMS. (That’s my theory — in fact, it was touched upon in this post from February 2006 that is worth rereading — especially Brian Timoney’s comment, where he wrote, (prophetically?), “For me though, the real breakthrough coming up in the next 18 months is the direct linkage of interfaces (such as Google Earth) to backend spatial database.”)