Digital Geography

30. December 2014

Am I the only one?

There’s a lot of great stuff going on in the GIS community, both in proprietary software and Open Source as well as online services like MapBox, Mapillary, CartoDB to mention just a few.

For proprietary software a growing trend is that the licensing of the software is moving to the “cloud” and that one time payments are replaced by subscriptions or “tokens”. And why not, everybody and everything is online and most companies are guided by strict economic guidelines making regular monthly payments preferable to one-time investments, even if it in the end will cost you more.


In my professional line of work I need to use GIS inside secure networks, without Internet access… This is the only way to guarantee protection from hacker attacks etc, even if you really need to address a lot more security issues to be more or less safe.

Before you question the need for all this protection, lets just say that companies and organizations work with a lot of sensitive information that can not be allowed to leak. It can be company secrets, personnel or client information and even government intelligence, etc. In some cases the information is so sensitive that you can’t even talk about your needs with software company representatives.

So, what do you do when “online” is not an option? This question is unfortunately only part of the issue.

Complex licensing and lack of public information on actual costs for proprietary software systems are also a problem when weighing your options. For instance I challenge anyone to present what the actual cost is for ArcGIS Server, without talking to an ESRI sales representative.

For me, in my professional line of work, I’m more and more considering Open Source and building my own system for the GIS framework. One reason for this is the lack of public information on actual costs for proprietary systems, not the cost it self. By employing personnel (or consultant companies) with the right skills and background, I can even present a regular monthly cost for the implementation and support to the economists at work, which will please them.

Will Open Source be able to replace proprietary systems? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me and my organization the answer is probably YES on the server side, and “not yet” for all clients.

So, am I the only one?

If so you can disregard this post and go about your business. If not, it should be enough for the large proprietary software companies to reflect on their licensing. But I doubt it’s in their interest to present information on the actual cost for their systems, unless the customers demand it…

I’m not requesting lower prices! I’m asking for simpler information that makes it easier to compare capabilities and costs for different licenses and systems. Without it, it’s impossible to say which is more cost effective, proprietary software from one or another company, or even Open Source.

Let 2015 be the year the customer gets all the information required to weigh pros and cons when deciding on new GIS-systems.

Happy New Year!