nyc_grey“ArcGIS Server did not function properly on our UNIX environment so we continued our search. We came upon Geoserver as we expanded our search to open source.” Colin Reilly, DOITT

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) oversees the City’s use of existing and emerging technologies in government operations, and its delivery of services to the public. Within DoITT, Citywide GIS provides enterprise-wide support for geospatial applications — developing and hosting a digital map and geo-referenced data along with associated tools and applications.

In 2008, DoITT designed a new web mapping architecture, that would overlay vector information on top of cached map tiles. By sharing the tiles among applications, but allowing different overlays, the architecture could be used by multiple agencies, yet retain a consistent look and feel and be centrally maintained.

Colin Reilly is the Director of the Citywide GIS program, “Our plan for this new application and others to follow was to use a WFS and convert GML to VML/SVG over a map cache to provide the desired map experience. In selecting software that could publish geospatial data as WFS, we looked at ESRI’s ArcGIS Server among others. ArcGIS Server did not function properly on our UNIX environment so we continued our search. We came upon Geoserver as we expanded our search to open source.”

DoITT turned to Boundless for support while building their architecture around GeoServer. DoITT has the technical expertise to build the application in house but they wanted to be able to get bugs fixed and ask questions about their specific use of GeoServer. The also sought to learn about GeoWebCache and OpenLayers.

DoITT bought a maintenance agreement for OpenGeo Suite from Boundless which provided them with personalized training, access to support and other professional services for their production environment. Taken together this gave  DoITT the piece of mind to develop applications on top of OpenGeo Suite components.

DoITT deployed Geoserver on top of an Oracle database with geographic data stored in SDO geometry columns. Because Geoserver works natively with Oracle, there is no need for an extra layer of software, such as ArcSDE, to mediate the connection. Geoserver provides OGC standard Web Feature Service access to the data in Oracle, returning the features as GML.

As the new architecture was developed, DoITT formalized the design for in-house re-use, as the WebMap framework. WebMap has now been used to develop several different agency, including the core NYCityMap and the NYC*scout for the Mayor’s Office of Operations.


The vector overlays pop out when you try out the sites. Map features are “live”; they become active with mouse rollovers and can provide immediate user feedback without requiring a server-side query.

Open source software solutions are catching on in New York City, and Reilly predicts that in future projects Citywide GIS may leverage it even more. “We currently use a suite of open source tools and, as new needs arise, look first to open source options before investigating traditional software. The cost advantages of open source works well within our business plan. Saving money is always well received.”

Since our relationship began, NYC DoITT has developed a number of  applications for NYC government entities and the general public, all backed by Boundless commercial support. Among these applications are a street closure application, the NY City Map, the above referenced street conditions map, a 311 map and Plow NYC. These applications use a mix of open and closed source technology.

NYC DoITT choice to of using a hybrid architecture allowed them to develop their applications faster and with reduced costs  With a Boundless maintenance agreement in place NYC DoITT was able to maximize their flexibility with regards to technology choices.