Q’s and A’s on the State of GIS at UD

Q:  Is ArcGIS the map standard for UD because it is the academic license and integrated in several scholarly applications?


ArcGIS is considered the “standard” GIS software for the most “GIS-heavy” units on campus. That decision has come from those units, reflecting dominance within disciplines. Their faculty have ArcGIS experience and their students are expected to use it in industry. It is the most popular GIS software in the world, and not without reason. Support and resources have followed that line. Please let us know if your unit is moving in another direction. We occasionally organize coordinating meetings of the GIS community (the last one was in the summer), and there was no great desire for change expressed.  And yes, there are economies of scale.  We have unlimited licenses for the software, but we need a critical mass to purchase it.  It is also, as you guessed, integrated in many scholarly/research/operational applications.

UD supports other GIS software other than ArcGIS. For example, I regularly recommend and occasionally take questions on open source software including QGIS and GDAL. These have the benefit of being free, which is good for the wallet, and open source, which is good for science. However, the user community is much smaller, which makes it more difficult to troubleshoot unusual use-cases. There are also some features which are not implemented, though this list is growing shorter every year.

Q: Can a base layer be maintained so that units desiring to work out of Google API can be working from a standard? There are many vendors who work from Google API.


We also work extensively with open source for building systems and websites to support GIS data. In fact, the UD Map is built on an exclusively open source stack including: OpenLayers, OpenStreetMap, PostGIS, PHP, and Postgres. I’m currently working on a site involving Leaflet, SQLite/Spatialite, and have also done some work with Mapbox/Tilemill, and can give advice on any of those pieces.

We’ve also worked extensively with the Google Maps API, and still recommend parts of it. However for most cases, better open alternatives now exist. This has become increasingly important as Google moves towards monetizing the API for example (e.g., on geocoding). ArcGIS Online compliments some parts of the ArcGIS Desktop Software, and gives a better cost/benefit for many workflows.

The UD Map is basically extensible. The web application can be embedded; query string offers parameters for URL manipulation; and web services can be directly leveraged through external software (such as an API). Google used to document how to add a WMS, but I think they are pushing folks to not use external data (again: monetization). In any case, you can use our WMS endpoint at: http://css-rdms3.win.udel.edu:8080/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&tiled=true this can be embedded in the Google Maps API, as in the following example: https://code.google.com/p/google-maps-api-with-wms-overlay/ … we have not moved beyond basic extensibility, because it has not been widely used, nor requested.

The UD Map documentation site is here: http://sites.udel.edu/mapdoc/

The UD GIS website is here, which includes information about supported software, and learning resources: www.udel.edu/gis

Would anyone be interested in a workshop on QGIS?

Why ArcGIS?  What about Open Source?  Can UD Map be brought into various APIs?

Q's & A's around the state of GIS at UD