I blogged over a year ago about Bentley’s support for the open source Cesium 3D globe project. Even so I was surprised to see a Bentley Systems booth at FOSS4GNA is St Louis. Luckily I had a chance to sit down with Pano Voudouris, Product Manager at Bentley Systems, and discovered that Bentley Systems was more involved in open source development than I suspected, specifically, in supporting the MapServer, OpenLayers, and OGR geospatial open source (OSGeo) projects.
Bentley System’s AssetWise Lifecycle Information Managementsolution (ALIM) is an asset management tool for linear and other infrastructure assets that is composed of several different systems that Bentley acquired over the years. One of them is used to manage rail and road assets. More than a decade ago I went to Bristol to see an exceptional asset management system for road and rail assets called Exor, that was built on Oracle’s LRS (linear referencing system) which supported dynamic segmentation. In 2010 Bentley Systems acquired Exor and since then has incorporated it into ALIM. Highways England, U.S. state DoTs, MoTs in Canada, and railways in the UK and around the globe use the product. However, it required an ArcGIS desktop, Pano explained, which Bentley felt limited its accessibility.
Bentley wanted to broaden the market for their transportation asset management system to the web so that anyone with a browser could manage and view their network and asset information. To do this Bentley developed a web-based geospatial front end based on MapServer, OGR and OpenLayers, all of which are OSGeo open source projects. Pano pointed out that Bentley’s involvement with these projects benefits the open source communities around them because Bentley is not only using these open source geospatial libraries, but contributing back to them.
This is further evidence of the penetration of open source geospatial tools and libraries into the commercial space. Since the formation of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGEO) in 2006, there has been an annual FOSS4G event that brings together open source geospatial developers, users and supporters from around the world. Last year’s event in Boston, USA brought together over 1,100. There are also regional FOSS4G events around the world of which FOSS4GNA is one. Sponsors for this year’s event include Redhat, IBM, Boundless, Radiant Solutions (Maxar), Amazon Web Services, Planet, Oracle, and ESRI, which further attests to the penetration of open source geospatial into the commercial market.
MapServer is an open source geographic data rendering engine written in C. In addition to allowing users to view and browse geospatial data with a web browser, MapServer supports maps that direct users to content. MapServer was originally developed by the University of Minnesota and is one of the founding projects of the OSGeo foundation. It is supported by a diverse group of organizations that fund enhancements and maintenance, and administered within OSGeo by the MapServer Project Steering Committee made up of developers and other contributors. All source code is openly available via GitHub.
The OGR Simple Features Library is a C++ open source library providing read access for MapServer and other applications to a number of vector file formats including ESRI Shapefiles. OGR is part of the GDAL library which is a translator library for many raster and vector geospatial data formats and which is released under an X/MIT style open source license.
This blog was first published here.