GovTech on Oregon Tri-Met Move from Esri to Mostly Open Source

It's worth reading in full, but here are some interesting bits:

Beginning in 2007, the department took a larger bite, switching out several major Esri GIS products with open source alternatives. McHugh replaced Esri ArcSDE, ArcIMS and MapObjects with open source products GeoServer, OpenLayers and PostGIS. At the time of the switch, the agency was considering whether or not to add Esri’s ArcServer.

“ArcServer was going to be a big investment for us, and it didn’t really align with our standards. The existing platform, ArcIMS, wasn’t really meeting our needs,” Bibiana McHugh said. “After laying everything out, GeoServer immediately popped to the top. It was clear this was an option that could meet all of our needs, save a lot of money — and it aligned with all of our Internet software standards.”

TriMet does still rely on Esri for some functions, however. “We still use Esri as a desktop application for planning and analysis, although a lot of open source software alternatives are getting close to being able to compete with even the Esri desktop applications,” she said.

Bibiana McHugh cautioned that using open source software, especially for demanding functions like GIS, isn’t cost-free. Running open source often requires additional hardware installations and support from third-party providers. Many companies have cropped up to provide development and maintenance services for open source software. She chose the firm OpenPlans, which specialized in TriMet’s chosen applications and charged $20,000 per year.

“That was cheaper than what I was paying for Esri,” McHugh said. “Not only did I get everything I was getting with Esri — priority bug fixes, priority help and assistance — but I also got 100 hours of free time with the developers that I could use however I wanted.”

Using an open source application that’s supported by a third-party developer also gave TriMet more control over changes. “I can put in a feature request to Esri and cross my fingers that it’s in the next release,” Bibiana McHugh said. “But with open source, you have more control, especially if you have the money to support the development of the features you want.”

Esri chose not to comment for this article. 

- Gov Tech

Published Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Written by Adena Schutzberg

Published in

Open Source

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