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FOSS4G 2014 Portland Notes From Ann Johnson

FOSS4G 2014

As Paul Ramsey mentioned, last week almost 900 members of the open source geospatial software community came together in Portland at FOSS4G 2014. We were proud to sponsor, privileged to participate in over nine presentations and nine workshops, excited about our new QGIS offerings, and pleased to see even greater interest in our PostGIS,  GeoServer, and OpenLayers offerings during the conference.

The power of Spatial IT resonated throughout the conference as participants were able to highlight their projects and unique use cases of open source geospatial tools to solve a wide variety of technical and business problems.

Highlights from our sessions

Paul conducted a very useful session on how to convince managers to embrace PostGIS and replace proprietary database offerings. The blend of technical and business elements in Paul’s talk spoke about the need to not only use the best available software, but also the continuing need to educate organizations about the value derived from using open source software.

Jody Garnett helped review the new and noteworthy features in GeoServer introduced over the past year. Since GeoServer is part of the core of OpenGeo Suite, it’s always promising to see new support for new standards like WCS 2.0 and new formats like GeoPackage and NetCDF become part of the software.

Andreas Hocevar helped describe what’s new and how to get started with OpenLayers 3. His talk provided an overview from a user’s perspective and covered common use cases and new features to help developers get comfortable with integrating spatial information into web applications.

The LocationTech events highlighted the ability of the community to truly embrace cooperation in the interest of advancing common projects and common goals.

FOSS4G is about community

A true sense of community, however, was the best part of the conference. There was a great feeling of camaraderie throughout the weeklong event. All of the presenters and booth participants, regardless of affiliation, were joined together by the common cause of promoting the value of and expanding the use of open source tools to reduce the cost of legacy GIS implementations and escape the monolithic, proprietary software options that dominate the industry.

Nothing drove the open source message home further for me than the train ride I took from the magnificent World Forestry Center back to my hotel after the gala on Thursday evening. Seated on the train, my badge now tucked in my purse, I was relaxing on the quiet train and became captivated by a conversation amongst three gentlemen seated just a few rows away. The three were discussing their week at FOSS4G, which seemed a very positive experience for all. And then, one of the men observed, “Open source is really becoming a standard in GIS. Even Esri was in attendance at FOSS4G.”

Well, I suppose that is just the point for the community — if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Whether Esri is genuine in their open source support or not remains to be seen but what is evident is they can no longer afford to ignore open source. Open source is a part of the geospatial software ecosystem and will continue to grow and provide more affordable opportunities for people to expand the technology into critical business and IT applications throughout their organizations.

I’m already planning for FOSS4G 2015 in Seoul!