Digital Geography

16. June 2014

ArcGIS server vs. Open Source GIS solutions

originally posted from our friends @mappinggis
Which program is better suited to serve geographic data on the web? ArcGIS Server form ESRI or open source ? This question is common in mailing lists and GIS-forums. The most consistent answer is that depends on the project. But in this post we will see some numbers to determine which is the best software to develop an application for web mapping:

GIS stacks from ESRI and OSGEO. Note the different bases of the graphic: left Linux, Windows/Linux on the right is missing! (source)

ArcGIS for Server

ArcGIS for Server  was launched to replace ArcIMS, and its quality and functionality is unquestionable. In a way it is based on the flagship product of ESRI ArcGIS for desktop. But it has some disadvantages as well:  
  • One ArcEditor license to configure and create data is required at least (price examples).
  • Use the REST API, but being based on DCOM objects have scaling problems.
  • each new API prob. means to renew the whole GIS-stack.

Why is open source GIS performing better?

  • MapServer  or  GeoServer   run on all major operating systems (Windows, Linux, Mac OSX), ArcGIS for Server only works under Windows and Linux.
  • “Saving” of software licenses.
  • Satisfactory performance: for most needs the lean MapServer or GeoServer perform better than full equipped ArcGIS Server.
Recently”, in June 2012, Jennifer R. Bauer has published an interesting academic work for a Master of Science in Geography, University of Oregon, which compares three web mapping applications and GIS desktop clients: MapServer, GeoServer and ArcGIS for Server. Although all three systems returned the same number of features, attributes and metadata for the test data sets, something was strange looking at download time and file size of given datasets: The most significant differences occurred in the operation GetCapabilities between GeoServer and the other two servers. File size generated by the servers regarding the geometry type and the request described, Getfeatures are similar with minor variations, but the WFS files created by ArcServer are larger than those created by MapServer and GeoServer.

download speed and file sizes of given data sets in ESRI and open source GIS products for server environment. (Jennifer R. Bauer)

download speed and file sizes in ESRI and open source GIS products for server environment. (Jennifer R. Bauer)

But as those requests were done by a python script we need to take a second look on the common consumer side: the Desktop GIS:

download speed and file sizes in ESRI and open source GIS products for desktop environment. (Jennifer R. Bauer)

This is only one study, in other analyzes ArcGIS for Server may have better results.

But mappinggis last statement is clear and we tend to support this statement:

“What is clear is that there is currently a trend in the industry to replace large facilities for ArcGIS Server to Open Source solutions and not vice versa.”