Author's note: At Autodesk University, members
of the Infrastructure Solutions Division staff and users were
introduced to MapServer Enterprise, the next generation, open source
version of MapGuide.The name was to distinguish the offering from the
"original" open source MapServer, which was to be called MapServer
Cheetah.Since the announcement of the MapServer Foundation last week,
Autodesk has responded to requests from the MapServer community to
leave the MapServer name exclusively with MapServer and find a new name
for its offering.Autodesk has agreed to do just that.So, until the
new name is announced, its original code name, Tux, can stand in.The company shared
some screenshots of the authoring package "Autodesk
MapServer Studio" and the AJAX client, highlighting new features.
After much technology-oriented discussion about Autodesk's new open
source Web mapping technology, Tux, I was pleased to talk with Autodesk
Infrastructure Solutions Division Vice President Chris Bradshaw to ask
about the positioning and marketing of the upcoming offering and its
impact on the existing MapGuide users.
Bradshaw drew the line between "anarchist open source" and "business
friendly open source," placing Autodesk's offerings in the second
group, along with Red Hat and IBM offerings.He noted that many, many
MapGuide users are public entities that have significant pressure to be
open and flexible.Some want to avoid the appearance of endorsing or
being restricted to a single vendor.Tux (Autodesk's or the open source
version) provides them "a credible way to be open." On the other hand,
he notes, these same organizations are squeezed in terms of resources
and will find a packaged, supported version a real value.
Bradshaw also shared the subtle difference regarding how an open source
solution makes competitions more, well, competitive.He noted that with
a proprietary solution, most users go right back to the original vendor
for add-on work.ESRI users contract with ESRI, for example.When an
open source solution is chosen, he argued, more potential bidders are
likely to participate.He also noted the link between open source and
open systems, suggesting that using an open source solution opens up
data in a way not generally available using proprietary solutions.
I don't necessarily agree with all those statements, when we have
reached the point where nearly all vendors can access other vendors'
proprietary formats either with built-in tools or add-ons from the
likes of Safe Software.The real "open" that makes this playing field
level, frankly, is open standards such as SQL, Web Map Service, etc.
Bradshaw admitted that while there are valid reasons for information
technologists to push for open systems, much of the push in public
organizations (and some private ones) is "how things look." "Perception
is reality," he noted.So, it's best if solutions appear open and are
"credibly" open.Tux, he feels, will fit the bill.
I asked Bradshaw to speculate about what the next year will look like
for existing MapGuide users.We agreed it would look very much like the
past.They'd "upgrade" to the new version, Autodesk Tux, rewrite their
applications for the new code base and continue paying Autodesk for
support.Their relationship with Autodesk will be very much the same as
it has been.Non-MapGuide users, that is users of other Web mapping
solutions, have already perhaps run into MapServer.The current and
future buzz will hopefully prompt them to "have a second look."
Bradshaw noted that Autodesk was speaking to more and more potential
MapGuide customers who were aware of MapServer.
We wrapped up with the money question: how will Autodesk make money
from Autodesk MapServer Enterprise? Bradshaw listed five ways:
Sales of Autodesk Tux "" Most likely there will
a nominal license fee, with a recurring subscription fee, though
details are to be worked out in the next few months.This is more like
"software as a service" than the old "buy a box" model, a change
Autodesk has been pushing across the company.It's also not so
different from how ESRI and other vendors currently "sell" software.
Applications for Autodesk Tux "" In time,
will build and sell vertical apps on top of Tux.These will bundle, for
example, a utilities app with Tux as a complete solution.
Sales of Autodesk Tux Studio "" Autodesk Tux
Studio will be sold as a stand alone product (which will work with
Autodesk and the open source versions of Tux).It will be "in the
desktop price range" but likely less than Map3D.
Pull along sales "" Autodesk Tux and open
Tux will have some impact (upward) on sales of Map3D and other desktop
products.Bradshaw noted that the "frosting" on the cake -- the pretty
end user maps of Tux, MapServer (and Google Maps, etc.) -- will widen
the end-user base (it already has) and further drive the need for data
creation and applications.Said another way, the widest part of the
user pyramid is even wider than it's been in the past.
Autodesk Services "" Bradshaw noted that
the revenue from Autodesk Professional Services, the consulting arm of
the company, is quite small.It serves mostly the largest customers,
ones that partners cannot support.It is, however, growing, and Tux is
another platform which this group can support.
Bradshaw seemed genuinely excited to be leading the
group that's the first one at Autodesk to dip its toes in the open
source water.He has a lot of faith in the open source process and is
confident his division will do well by it.