I'm currently developing an ArcGIS based flex web viewer. ArcGIS is great for most of the things but there are some issues like performance and license costs.

That's why I'm looking into possible alternatives. At the moment I've found 3 possible alternatives, but I'm not sure what they are capable of, so I'm wondering if some people on here have more experience with them.

I have been reading the docs and will try to experiment with some of these, but it will take a lot of time to find out all these requirements. So it would be of great help if you could point me in the direction of software I should try out.

These are our requirements:

  • fast
  • easy scalability
  • advanced labeling (different label colors based on attributes, labels placed in a rectangle)
  • render cached data
  • network tracing possibilities (for sewers, so trace upstream and downstream)
  • printing (generating pdf's)

nice to have:

  • good flex or javascript viewer (I know this is different software, but I'm not sure if all 3 packages support those equally well)
  • easy to start with
  • 4
    What OS do you have on your servers? – geographika Apr 19 '11 at 14:42
  • 3
    network tracing possibilities? for car, bus, people? please expand - if need this functionality your likely to require a database on the backend (postgres+postgres+pgrouting is possible route). – Mapperz Apr 19 '11 at 14:45
  • @geographika: our current os is windows, but I'm more then willing to switch to Linux. – tmske Apr 19 '11 at 21:15
  • @Mapperz: tracing for sewers. I've added this to the question. – tmske Apr 19 '11 at 21:18
  • In my experience, many OS GIS programs are easier to install and run on Windows. Going with Linux simply gives you the typical advantages for server administration. – jvangeld Apr 19 '11 at 21:24

As based on my experience, I would recommend GeoServer, however i agree that it not 100% satisfy all the listed requirements as others too.

* fast

It much faster and accepted in many production high traffic solutions. In my production GIS site heavly used and still no issues found on response time/performance on GeoServer.

* easy scalability

Scalability can be done with multiple servers in cluster and having Apache loadbalancer. GeoWebCache - tile caching engine used for caching. Currently you need to have seperate data folder (config + tile cache) for each server.

* advanced labeling 

GeoServer supports SLD and most of the advanced labeling can be done.

* render cached data

GeoWebCache inbuilt which works well.

* network tracing possibilities 

I don't see any way to network tracing with geoServer.

* printing (generating pdf's)

Not supported by default. I used GetMap to get image and generated PDF. There is module for PDF generation it is still not upto production usage standard.

Good to have look:

  1. Andrea Aime's presentation covers on production setup, performance and clustering. http://blip.tv/file/2796322/
  2. OpenGeo's document: http://opengeo.org/publications/geoserver-production/opengeo-geoserver.pdf
  3. GeoServer documentation on production environment: http://docs.geoserver.org/latest/en/user/production/index.html

Your printing requirment made remember Marco Hugentobler's presentation at FOSSGIS2011: "QGIS Mapserver and Client"


There's no tiling support yet. User experience is imho good: QGIS Mapserver example (German interface)

easy scalable

No idea.

advanced labeling (different label colors based on attributes, labels placed in a rectangle)

Different colors work fine, there are buffers around labels but no rectangles.

render cached data

Would be the job of an external tile cache most likely.

network tracing possibilities

Not sure what you mean.

printing (generating pdf's)

Check the example. The print output and layout is great.

good flex or javascript viewer (I know this is different software, but I'm not sure if all 3 packages support those equally well)

I think the GeoExt client is really nice.

easy to start with

There are docs covering installation and use on Linux systems. Creating map projects is easy because you simply copy a QGIS (desktop) project file onto the server.

  • 1
    Be aware that GeoExt has license issues because of ExtJS. It's not as expensive as anything from ESRI but it's just as confusing. – Sean Apr 19 '11 at 19:10

I haven't yet used this, but it looks fantastic, is being extensively developed, and has significant community support. Might not be as established an option as you were looking for, but one worth considering.


  • I saw TileMill and it looks nice. I will definitely try it. But I'm not sure it does everything we need. I suppose it's only for creating maps that are then later served through mapnik? – tmske Apr 19 '11 at 21:24
  • Correct. It's certainly not intended to be full featured, but could be a good portion of what you're looking to do. Just thought I'd throw it out there. – Jacques Tardie Apr 19 '11 at 22:19
  • I've been reading into mapnik a bit more, but I haven't found out the standard/fastest way to serve maps with mapnik. Do you know more about this? – tmske Apr 20 '11 at 10:49
  • I've yet to create anything robust with Mapnik, but the two documents I found most helpful are here, and here – Jacques Tardie Apr 20 '11 at 11:10
  • Link to TileMill broken – SteveC Apr 18 '16 at 15:08

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