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Open Source GIS Choices In the last week or so I have noticed a number of posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and the

like talking about the number of choices available in Open Source GIS. This list is exhaustive and you can check out The GIS Forum for the most exhaustive list available. So this list is huge, so what? Well this means that there are no w enough choices that you can develop and maintain an enterprise level GIS witho ut the costly licensing that is associated with proprietary implementations. As an example a comparison of an enterprise GIS deployment might look like this: Web Mapping ArcIMS - $18000 UMN Mapserver $0.00 GeoDatabase ArcSDE - $18000 PostGIS/PostgreSQL - $0.00 Desktop GIS ArcMap - $2500 Quantum GIS - $0.00 Total Proprietary - $38,500 Open Source - $0.00 Interoperability Of course this doesn't even factor in the yearly licensing cost of the proprieta ry software. Sounds like a no brainer...right? Well maybe not. Companies such as ESRI have spent years and millions of dollars to ensure their software is compl etly compatable accross the board. What I mean by this is, if you deploy a compl etely ESRI solution it is very likely that each part will interact with each oth er part very well. Because the open source projects are run, for the most part, fairly independantly this may not be the case for OSGeo. However, more and more OSGeo packages are croping up that put these software together in interoperable bundles. Some examples are the OSGeo4W project which is a grouping of such GIS p owerhouses as Quantum GIS, FWTools/OpenEV and uDig. Another example is the GISVM which is a Ubuntu Linux VMWare image that can be run on Windows, Linux or Mac O S using the VMWare viewer and contains a number of GIS applications such as gvSi g, Grass GIS and PostGIS. Flexibility The power of any GIS lies in it's customizability. For proprietery platforms the y have development environments such as VBA and libraries that contain a number of progamable objects such as ArcObjects. Open source is no different. As an exa mple Quantum GIS has a number of bindings for languages such as Python and C++. These bindings allow the developer to create embeded plugins to extend the funct ionality of the software as well as stand alone applications that can provide a highly focused set of features to the user. Meaning? So what does all this mean. Well it is true that there are many open source choi ces to help build a highly functional and powerful GIS for your organization, it is still imperative that you perform a comprehensive needs analysis. This can b e done completely in-house or with the help of a consultant but is essential. Th is will help you know exactly what the system needs to produce and allow the dev elopers and deployers to pick the right applications to meet your busines object