There is a quiet revolution going on in the Geographic Information System software industry that has been growing exponentially and gaining more momentum in recent years — the movement towards open GIS. If you are a Desktop GIS user who has been on the fence about implementing an open GIS solution, now is the time. With Boundless Desktop, our flexible, hybrid architecture integrates seamlessly with proprietary stacks. And what’s more — we offer supported software that will scale to meet your business needs and is easy on your budget.
Our CEO, Andy Dearing explains:
Q: In your years in the geospatial industry, how have you seen the customer use of the technology evolve?
In my fifteen years in the geospatial industry, I’ve seen our industry respond to certain trends and take the lead in others. As with most industries, we regarded the Cloud with a certain amount of suspicion and trepidation – after all, for many companies their geospatial data is their ‘ace in the hole‘ and they initially felt better/safer with it on premise, on their desktops or servers. But eventually they realized that this led to siloed data and limited access; this, and the cost factor, led to the migration to the Cloud. Data has moved from the back-office to the front-office. The cloud is not only used to deliver content, but also provide an elastic infrastructure to host, analyze, and deliver value to a global set of users.
Where we see our industry taking the lead is in the move to Open Source GIS, or what we term “open GIS”. That may sound a bit self-serving, since Open is what Boundless is all about, but it’s true. The move to open source GIS is not only practical for any number of reasons, the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to make it inevitable. The question is not whether companies and organizations will make the move to Open, it’s how fast.
"The move to open source GIS is not only practical for any number of reasons, the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to make it inevitable."
~ Andy Dearing, Boundless CEO
Q: Have industry policies—especially in the area of pricing—kept pace with this evolution?
The challenge that exists with today’s GIS implementations is software pricing has not followed the trend of hardware pricing. The price of hardware (servers, in particular) has decreased with on-demand elastic cloud infrastructure offerings (both on- and off-premise). However, proprietary GIS solution costs are only continuing to rise. And moreover, the ability to share licenses in a workgroup (i.e. concurrent use pricing) is now going away, only continuing to increase the individual costs to work with geospatial information.
Q: Specifically, how does Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop licensing model differ from Boundless Desktop?
Unlike ArcGIS Desktop, there is not a concept of “user licenses”, “named users”, or “credits” with Boundless Desktop. All Boundless software uses open source licenses, but unlike proprietary software, Boundless Desktop gives users the freedom to scale their number of users concurrently and without penalty under a monthly subscription model. That means more users gain access to a robust Desktop GIS platform, without the hefty price tag associated with proprietary software licensing models.
In addition to a professional Desktop GIS solution, Boundless Desktop users get access to Boundless Connect, an ecosystem of support, training, Q&A’s, videos, and so much more! Additionally, you will soon have access to free and premium content services, ranging from basemaps to routing services. And the ecosystem continues to grow – providing the most complete supported open GIS Desktop platform.
"Boundless Desktop gives users the freedom to scale their number of users concurrently and without penalty under a monthly subscription model.
That means more users gain access to a robust Desktop GIS platform, without the hefty price tag associated with proprietary software licensing models."
Q: With the Internet of Things creating a new generation of geospatial solutions, what should geospatial customers be expecting—or demanding—from their vendors in the way of usage and pricing?
While the Internet of Things (IoT) is somewhat still being defined in many industries and market segments, geospatial professionals and what we call “geo-enabled users” are requiring a technology platform that makes sense out of all these emerging data streams. These professionals and consumers require: 1) a geospatial platform that scales (both in technology performance and price) to consume and process massive volumes of information; and 2) one that integrates with other systems through open and interoperable interfaces and standards.
For scalability, the geospatial technology needs to be capable of being deployed in an elastic infrastructure (Amazon, Azure, etc..) in modern IT methodologies – Docker, Cloud Foundry, Openshift, Chef, Puppet, and the list goes on. Proprietary solutions installers are not built in a way that allows for this type of massive scalability / deployment – this is why more users are transitioning to open source and Boundless. And moreover, the “pay per CPU core” mode of licensing is archaic – and meaningless in an elastic infrastructure – so GIS professionals and consumers are ultimately going to pay more for significantly less capabilities.
For interoperability and integration with third party systems, the GIS professional and geo-enabled users know that GIS tools are not the only software required to perform their job functions. The geospatial technologies need to be able to seamlessly integrate with other third-party offerings. The beauty of the open source geospatial technology stack is how “open” it is – whether it be sharing data through open standards (OGC®, REST, etc..), or being able to take the open source code and build the connections to your own IT systems. All the building blocks are there to have a seamless integration and providing immediate location-value to your operations.
"The 'pay per CPU core' mode of licensing is archaic - and meaningless in an elastic infrastructure - so GIS professionals and consumers are ultimately going to pay more for significantly less capabilities."
Q: You have a unique perspective on the geospatial industry, having been an executive at Esri and now the CEO of its major competitor. Should future geospatial customers see their options with these two companies as ‘either/or’ or ‘both/and’?
It’s definitely not an either / or scenario with proprietary vs. open source GIS technologies. We encourage organizations we speak with to look at a hybrid model – both/and, as stated above. Most customers are looking to either reduce IT expenditures, massively scale out their enterprise, or some combination of both. Whether it be using open source backend databases or server-tier technologies with proprietary front-end applications, or vice versa, the benefits of implementing a hybrid model are many. Check out Anthony Calamito’s whitepaper to find out more about the hybrid approach to adopting Boundless.
It’s encouraging to see several Esri employees downloading the releases of the Boundless technology stack on a regular basis.
We are hopeful they are making strides in making their proprietary stack as interoperable as possible with the open source geospatial platform. At the end of the day, it’s all about advancing the entire GIS industry and making the technology available and accessible for all — that’s our goal.
Q: Can you talk to us about the current challenges with traditional GIS technologies? How is Boundless addressing these challenges?
As alluded to above, the challenges we see with traditional GIS systems is for organizations to scale their platform to meet current, near-term, and future demands. With the large amounts of location-based information being generated by connected sensors, the ability to have an IT environment to store, manage and analyze that information is paramount to the success of the organization. With current Boundless offerings and the ones we will be rolling out this year, we are poised to help our customers bring their geospatial data to life beyond layers on a map.
Q: You talk a lot about scaling without penalty. Can you talk about scalability in relationship to proprietary vs. open source solutions?
Many of our customers feel trapped with their current proprietary GIS systems, because they are not able to scale up and out. This is due to licensing cost purposes or it being technically cumbersome to set up with the proprietary technology platform.
With Boundless, you can scale without penalty. We provide a streamlined support model which allows our customers to scale vertically and horizontally as much as required, but only paying for support for that one configuration. Simple, easy, and scalable – no more confusing pricing models.
“With Boundless, you can scale without penalty. We provide a streamlined support model which allows our customers to scale vertically and horizontally as much as required, but only paying for support for that one configuration. Simple, easy, and scalable – no more confusing pricing models.”
Q: As open source becomes more mainstream across a variety of industries, are you noticing that people have a better understanding of the value of open source?
Yes! It has been amazing to see the proliferation of the term “open source GIS” within many organizations, from the federal government to commercial businesses and everyone in between. IT departments seem to be the first to “get it”, truly understanding the value of open source. These professionals, who have a variety of backgrounds and specialties, are now being asked to to do more with their data – including location data. To more efficiently answer these demands, we are seeing more of these departments turning to open source geospatial technology.
The beauty of open source GIS is that there are thousands of hardworking individuals across the globe that are working to advance the open source projects further, faster – and go beyond the traditional boundaries of geospatial technologies. The past couple of years that I have been here at Boundless have been amazing and I cannot wait to see what the next few years have in store for Boundless and open source GIS.