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I am trying to use GeoServer to deliver a hexagonal grid layer much like it will do using SLD heat map and cluster layers. While searching the web, I find several examples using OpenLayers (which is client side, not server side), QGIS, and a few others, but nothing addressing GeoServer. Can someone point me to instructions on how to use GeoServer to generate a hex grid for counting items in a region?

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GeoServer does not have a hex binning functionality yet (it can be implemented, given enough dev resources).

Last time I had to do hex binning on the cheap, I delegated everything to PostGIS using a GeoServer SQL View. There are multiple blogs on the topic, here is one, but you can look for more ways to do the same: http://blog.cleverelephant.ca/2020/12/waiting-postgis-31-2.html

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GeoTools (the underlying library of GeoServer) does have Hexagonal Grid support available via the Vector Grid extension. So you could develop a WPS process that used that.

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