I'm new to GIS and need to learn for an internship. I've been reading a lot and now need help picking technologies to use... particularly the map serving technologies.

Project requirements -

  • Free
  • Web Based Service
  • Able to display layers/features over Google Maps/Bing Maps
  • Able to select individual features/layers (Seems like open layers does this?)
    • e.g. select individual/multiple points/polygons
  • Works on 64 bit Red Hat

  • Compatible with PHP, PostGIS (seems like they all do)

What I've narrowed it down to so far...

GeoServer - Seems to be the easiest to learn and install. Not sure if I can use Google Maps with it though. Maybe with a WFS? Most questions tagged on this site.

MapServer - Seems tricky to install on 64 bit. (No MapTools FGS yet for 64 bit) 2nd most questions tagged on this site.

MapGuide - Looks cool and has cool features but it looks "youngest" and the documentation is behind so it might be hard to get things going fast. (by the time the internships over.) Least most tagged.

  • 1
    How long do you have, what do you have to do, and what languages/tech do you know already? – geographika Jul 18 '11 at 20:47
  • 1
    Mapguide is around as a commercial gis web server since 1996. So certainly older than GeoServer, and the age is certainly not a reason to avoid it. – johanvdw Dec 13 '11 at 9:54

I would go with GeoServer It's the easiest to setup yet very powerful and completely OGC compliant. Lots of documentation and a very active user community... join user list serv.

  • 2
    and with OpenLayers there is no problem over laying a WMS over Google Maps. – Ian Turton Jul 18 '11 at 20:07
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    OpenStreetMap can have better detail in places too. openstreetmap.org/… – Mapperz Jul 18 '11 at 20:30

Using GeoServer is the way to go if you want services adhering to the OGC spec. Openlayers is the client side library you're looking for (using google maps and bing).

In my experience however, only coding in javascript kills my productivity. I spend hours hunting small bugs, even with developer tools and firebug. Therefore, I write most of my code in geodjango. The data is stored in PostGIS, used by GeoServer to do everything I need. So for admin screens and workflows I'd recommend having a look at geodjango.

  • +1 I don't know about geodjango, but agree with the statement of Javascript programming is a productivity sink. – dariapra Jul 19 '11 at 18:54

If speed is important, then MapServer is a better choice than GeoServer. As of 2010 MapServer is a faster WMS server than GeoServer, and the advantage that MapServer has is important. During last editions of the FOSS4G Conference, serious benchmarking of several WMS servers have been done. The description and results of the one done during the FOSS4G 2010 (Barcelona, Spain) are available at:

About MapServer on 64 bit platforms, I have installed it on an old Itanium server under an Ubuntu server operating system. I do not remember it was difficult or tricky, and under heavy load it worked fine.

On the other hand, perhaps the biggest concern MapServer has is, as of version 5 (I don't know about version 6, the current stable one) the lack of WFS-T support.


Everything depends on your preferred technology. If you feel at home in JavaScrip, use OpenLayers combined with GeoServer. That should work on all hardware.

If you are better at home in Java, you could look at Geomajas. This allows you to build both front-end and back-end in Java. However, it does not support Bing maps at the moment (it does support Google maps).

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