When I first started working with ArcGIS, I didn’t give much thought to the “makers” of it. ESRI made software just like other companies, and having worked with Mapinfo years ago, I figured they weren’t lonely players in the field of GIS.
Later I started researching “Open Source GIS” and found what seemed like a parallel universe of Open Source GIS bundles and applications. There is a lot of development going on with GIS software that is totally free. So why choose ArcGIS ?
Obviously, ESRI software has become something of a standard, and for most jobs it’s a minimum requirement. If you want to work in GIS, you need to know how to work with ESRI products. When I thought about returning to my Mapinfo “roots”, I noticed it had retreated to something of a niche market (please correct me if I’m wrong!).
I’ve always liked the Open Source idea. It took me a long time to warm up to the idea of using Linux. But when I tried it, I quickly became convinced that the Era of Windows would end, and Google has certainly given a huge boost to the Open Source Universe.
There are a lot of things you do with ArcGIS that you can probably do just as well and easily with Open Source GIS. When it comes to other functionality, e.g. I have heard people mention Spatial Analyst, maybe you can’t. So when I decided to pay for an EDN license, it was because I figured I needed the ESRI specific skills to work in GIS.
I’ve come across two interesting items today that make me wonder if ESRI will continue dominating the GIS market, and which encourage me to continue following the happenings in the Open Source world. In my last post, I linked to James Fee’s blog, where I read a few interesting things, e.g. :
The legacy they [ESRI] may be fighting is the COM framework on which most of ArcObjects is based. At past Developers Conferences I’ve asked if there are plans to migrate their libraires to pure .Net. (Dennis Geasan)
Quad core Win7 workstation for ESRI? Remember, no multithreading, no multicore support…and you’re stuck in 32 so don’t bother with anything more than 4gigs of RAM, my friend. (Archie Belaney)
That after I just bought a new PC, quad core and 6GM RAM to run ArcGIS Server.
And then this page from last year, where ESRI bailed from the WMS Server Shootout against Mapserver and Geoserver.
Now, none of this makes me enjoy working with ArcGIS less than before. But it brought up the question where the mainstream in GIS will be headed in the future.