Case Studies

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This page lists Case Studies of projects that include Geospatial Open Source components.


Case Studies

OSGeo Journal

The OSGeo Journal includes many international Case Studies and introductions to OSGeo software.

  • List of all article titles in the journal here

OSGeo-Live Open Source Overviews

  • OSGeo-Live contains 1 page project descriptions for close to 50 of the best GeoSpatial Open Source applications. (It also contains an ISO with all these applications installed, configured, and ready to test, along with quick-start documents for all applications.)

Evaluation of FOSS4G software projects

CASCADOSS results on the evaluation marketing, technical and economical aspects of FOSS4G software projects. . The CASCADOSS project evaluated 51 of inventoried 98 FOSS4G software projects from 5 categories: desktop GIS/RS applications, server applications, spatial databases, development libraries and general interest projects. The CASCADOSS website provides an open framework for custom evaluations, allowing comparisons between projects to find best solution. The issues related to change from proprietary to OS GI software is also addressed.

Web Clients

Web Client Comparison

Table of cross project features.



  • The Mapbender community maintains the Mapbender Gallery with a list of solutions for specific domains ranging from city map services through specific applications to full scale geoportal implementations.


  • The GeoMoose project maintainers host a gallery of GeoMoose with an installation Gallery List of links to operating GeoMoose sites.

Desktop Clients

Review of Open Source Desktop Clients

Compare ArcGIS against Open Source GIS Desktop

September 2009

Compares ArcGIS against GRASS, QGIS, uDig, gvSIG,OpenJUMP, and MapWindow for the Library domain.

"Each of the individual FOSS GIS packages had their own particular strengths and weaknesses and some performed well for thematic mapping. The FOSS packages generally were weaker compared to ArcGIS in terms of support for various projection and coordinate systems, joining attribute data to GIS files, and automatic labeling, but their advantage is that they were free in terms of cost and licensing restrictions. When coupled with plug-ins and helper applications the viability of the FOSS GIS packages increased."

Email threads discussing merits and disadvantages of OSGeo Desktop

18 April 2008: Geowanking: ArcView 3.1 replacement

"[Oxford Archaeology] are looking at gvsig and qgis as the main options [for ArcGIS], gvsig because it can use cad data, and qgis because we like the grass integration and it's slightly more user-friendly for english speakers (the translated version of gvsig still has some spanish bits in it). With slight changes to our work-flows, we are finding that these two packages will do almost everything we need a gis to do, with the exception of producing high-quality illustrations. To achieve this we are currently looking at export to svg or postscript for final editing in inkscape, but that's a work in progress."

24 April 2008: OSGeo-Discuss: Can I do the same GIS tasks with OS (as with ESRI)?

This email thread provides numerous opinions for and against using Open Source Geospatial Software.

Paul Ramsey notes there is not a direct Open Source replacement for Arc View:

I think it's contingent on us as evangelizers to not over-sell. I would not recommend QGIS or any other open source desktop to someone whose prior experience was Arc* until I had a clear understanding of the use case. In response to the query "can I replace ArcView with open source", my answer is "in general, no, but maybe for a specific use case".

John Callahan provides a good summary:

I've been an ESRI user (AV 3.x, ArcGIS 8/9, ArcIMS, ArcGIS Server, ArcSDE) for 12+ years and have recently started exploring FOSS software. And I haven't disagreed with any of the responses so far. You will definitely need multiple programs to do what a single ESRI program can do. IMO, this is a good thing. One of the main reasons for my migration is I'm tired of running large, complicated, expensive software and all the extra baggage that comes with it to use only 10% of what the software can do. (see ArcGIS Server.)

You can do all the analysis and more of ArcGIS Desktop and extensions using GRASS, QGIS, SAGA, GeoTools, GDAL/OGR, PROJ4, or R Statistics along with a programming language like Python, Java or others. (IMO, this is a better solution than ESRI.) You can do just about anything you want on the web server end with MapServer, GeoServer, FeatureServer (and maybe TileCache or GeoNetwork for metadata) with any of a dozen or more clients (OpenLayers, ka-Map, MapGuide etc...). And you can do a lot of database work with Postgres/PostGIS, a much simpler, less costly solution than ArcSDE+RDBMS. And I wouldn't count out the role of free, non-open source packages like Google products and Oracle Express (11g should have Spatial included.)

From my experience (limited in the FOSS world), I have found three basic hurdles:

  1. Cartography. Whether on the screen, PDF outputs, or print publications, ArcMap is easy and looks great. (Although R Statistics produces better looking charts and graphs than ArcGIS.)
  2. Versioned editing. This is important for groups with multiple concurrent editors or that has a particular hierarchical workflow with their GIS data.
  3. Storage and serving of very large (50+ GB) raster datasets. PostGIS does not support rasters yet; Oracle Spatial does though. I'm still not sure if storing rasters in a database is a good idea but ArcSDE sure makes it easy, and with good performance when used in conjunction with other ESRI products.

Current work addressing Open Source holes include:


GRASS64 with ArcGIS93 in education at North Carolina State University

Case study of QGIS and GRASS GIS usage to generate bushfire risk areas for a council in Australia

December 2009, Assignments for a course on Geospatial Modeling and Analysis with instructions for both GRASS and ArcGIS, including test datasets


September 2009, SAGA vs GRASS: A Comparative Analysis of the Two Open Source Desktop GIS for the Automated Analysis of Elevation Data

ARCGIS 9.0 vs GRASS 6.0

August 2005, Comparison of ARCGIS 9.0 and GRASS 6.0

Todd Buchanan's master thesis compared ArcGIS 9.0 and GRASS 6.0 for a use case: "Characterization of Urban Sprawl for Eugene-Springfield, Oregon". He took detailed notes using both and found "ArcGIS is more straightforward than GRASS. However, GRASS proved itself fully capable of performing the operations required by the case study and outperformed ArcGIS in several categories."

Note: GRASS GIS is even better now and has been integrated with the user friendly QGIS and Sextante since this study.

uDig Case Studies Collection of uDig case studies put together by Refractions.

QGIS Case Studies Collection of QGIS case studies.

gvSIG Case Studies Collection of gvSIG case studies.

Web Services

Army Corps of Engineers Wetlands Regulatory program

25 September 2007. Powerpoint presentation from FOSS4G Conference

The Army Corps successfully integrated a Proprietary Oracle Database, ARC SDE and Analysis tools, with Open Source WMS and WFS services, and free viewers like Google Earth and Google Maps.

An earthshaking use of open source

Use of MapServer, Ingres and GMT among other tools by the BGR (a German institute responsible for the monitoring of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty).

GeoServer Gallery

Gallery of GeoServer installations with the occasional showcase of interesting technology or integration.

Map Server Sites

Let's use this page to list sites that use MapServer, until a formal gallery is developed.

deegree Gallery

Gallery of spatial data infrastructures based on deegree web services and clients.


Comparing Open Source Catalogues

July 2010

Report comparing Buddata, Geonetwork & deegree CSW capabilities.


PostGIS Case Studies

A collection of PostGIS Case Studies collected by Refractions.

PostGIS vs Oracle Spatial benchmarking

February 2012

"... Postgres performs better than Oracle 11g both in the Cold Phase and Warm Phase. Though in few queries Oracle 11g performed better but on the whole Postgres overpowered Oracle 11g. In the warm phase in 3 out of 4 queries Postgres performed significantly well, from this we can conclude that Postgres has better automatic memory management capabilities and page replacement policies... On the whole it is the open-source that wins the game!"

Full report:


PostGIS versus MySQL Spatial

June 2009

In speed, PostGIS wins but not by orders of magnitude. The amount of functionality in MySQL Spatial remains very very small. You can do simple store-and-retrieve operations. Many of the spatial operations that are standard in full spatial databases don’t exist or are (confusingly, as some users have commented) stubbed out against bounding box tests instead.

Complete Infrastructure

Open Source in Cadastre and Land Registration

April 2010

FLOSS in Cadastre and Land Registration - Opportunities and Risks Compiled by The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) in conjunction with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

The publication provides an overview of open-source software applicable to cadastre and land registration, as well as practical case studies from countries using Open Source in this area.

Valencian Regional Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport

in Spanish (view English translation by Google)

Valencian Regional Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport is under a project of migrating "all" systems to open-source software. As a matter of fact, that was the reason to build gvSIG. All geospatial infrastructure (previously with ESRI) has been moved to open source (gvSIG, PostGIS, MapServer, deegree, GeoNetwork opensource).

There is a final report (PDF in English) of the gvPontis project.

Hydrographic Confederation of Guadalquivir River, Spain

in Spanish (view English translation by Google)

A migration of a big part of ESRI components to open-source has been made, with use of gvSIG, GeoNetwork opensource, MapServer, GeoServer, deegree.

ROI from Geospatial Open Standards, study by NASA

April 2005

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Geospatial Interoperability Office studied the Return On Investment from using Geospatial Open Standards. The study showed "There is a significant improvement in functionality and mitigation of cost when using open as opposed to proprietary standards. The project that implemented geospatial interoperability standards had a risk-adjusted ROI, or "Savings to Investment" ratio, of 119.0 percent throughout the five-year project life cycle."

Predicted ROI for Australian Government to investment in a SDI

October 2007

ACIL Tasman study reports a 10 to 20 times ROI should the Australian government invest in a Spatial Data Infrastructure.

Predicted ROI for New Zealand Government to investment in a SDI

August 2009 ACIL Tasman, Spatial Information in the New Zealand Economy

"... open source solutions are increasingly used in implementations of SDIs and the New Zealand Government should thoroughly explore how open source solutions can be employed because of the potential advantages in cost and replicability."

GeoSpatial Open Source in Education

February 2011, Free and Open Source Software for GIS education

A white paper which describes various open source software available for GIS educators.

Open Data

Open Data Licensing in Australian Government

2008. Government Information Licensing Framework

80% of Queensland, Australian government data can be opened up under Creative Commons, and the remaining data is planned to be released under an extensions to the Creative Common license.

Open Data for Victorian state Government, Australia

June 2009 Recommendation to free Public Sector Information.

The Victorian Parliament’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee (“EDIC”) recommends the freeing of access to Public Sector Information at no or marginal cost.

South Africa

Promotion of Access to Information Act

"To give effect to the constitutional right of access to any information held by the State and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights; and to provide for matters connected therewith."

Spatial Data Infrastructure Act

"To establish the South African Spatial Data Infrastructure, the Committee for Spatial Information and an electronic metadata catalogue; to provide for the determination of standards and prescriptions with regard to the facilitation of the sharing of spatial information; to provide for the capture and publishing of metadata and the avoidance of duplication of such capture; and to provide for matters connected therewith."

Open Source Policies

These documents provide compelling reasons for selecting Open Source and Open Standards.

European Union

February 2008, Commission Communication towards a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS)

This Communication sets out an approach to modernise and simplify the collection, exchange and use of the data and information required for environemntal monitoring and reporting in Europe. Id defines a set of principles on the basis of which the collection, exchange and use of environmental data and information should be organised in the future. FOSS adressed directly as one of the principles information sharing and processing should be supported through common, free open-source software tools.

June 2010, EU Guidelines for Public Administrations purchasing software

This guide describes in business terms, the importance of using Open Standards in order to adhere to EU purchasing criteria of fair competition, transparency, and long term value for money.

January 2013, Staff Working Document "EU Shared Environmental Information System – Implementation Outlook"

The EU Digital Agenda for Europe initiative supports the SEIS principle aiming to generate information sharing through common, free, open source software. For example, an EU legal framework for licensing open source software now exists (ISA EUPL) and governments are increasingly keen to develop its use. Actions under the EU Digital Agenda are creating a safer and better-performing digital environment, improving access conditions and interoperability and stimulating the growth of cross-border e-Government services. The open source and open data movement offers significant opportunities for further developing the SEIS but more open-source empowered applications ensuring compatibility across Member States will be needed for managing and sharing environmental information


March 2011, Guide to Open Source Software for Australian Government Agencies

  1. Agencies will be required to insert a statement into any Request for Tender that they will consider open source software equally alongside proprietary software.
  2. Australian Government agencies will require suppliers to consider all types of available software (including but not limited to open source software and proprietary software) when responding to agencies' procurement requests.
  3. Australian Government agencies will actively participate in open source software communities and contribute back where appropriate.

New Zealand

13 March 2008, Ministry of Justice Open Source Strategy Paper

Proposes when Open Source should be used over Proprietary software, and concludes that Open Source better than Proprietary, all other things being equal.


July 2011 British Columbia Policy on Open Data

Open Data

1. Ministries must take steps to expand public access to government data by making it available online unless restricted by law, contract or policy.

2. Ministries must re-prioritize and expand data collection efforts towards those that enable citizens and sectors to create value from government data.

3. Ministries must adopt B.C.'s open license for data and ensure data accessibility through DataBC in accordance with B.C.'s Open Data Policy, which includes the requirement that data be published in an open machine-readable format.

4. DataBC must ensure that citizens can give feedback on and assessment of the quality of published information and provide input to which data should be prioritized for publication.

Open Information

1. To the extent practicable and subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) and other valid restrictions, ministries should use modern technology to disseminate useful information in a routine way rather than waiting for specific requests under FOIPPA.

South Africa

The South African Government through its Open Source Project Office and the State IT Agency (SITA) is active with open source and interoperability policy development and implementation.

Browse and download most of the important documents HERE.

The South African FOSS Policy which was approved in 2007 urges government to implement FOSS:

  • Choose FOSS: The South African government will implement FOSS unless proprietary software proves to be significantly superior. Whenever the advantages of FOSS and proprietary software are comparable FOSS will be implemented when choosing a software solution for a new project. Whenever FOSS is not implemented, then reasons must be provided to justify implementing proprietary software.
  • Use FOSS/Open Content Licensing: The South African government will ensure all government content and content developed using government resources is made Open Content, unless analysis on specific content shows that proprietary licensing or confidentiality is substantially beneficial.
  • Develop in FOSS: All new software developed for or by the South African government will be based on open standards, adherent to FOSS principles, and be licensed using a FOSS license where possible.
  • Migrate to FOSS: The South African government will migrate current proprietary software to FOSS whenever comparable software exists.
  • Promote FOSS in South Africa: The South African government will encourage the use of Open Content and Open Standards within South Africa. They will encourage the use of Open Content and Open Standards.

For more recent and additional content visit these sites:

United Kingdom

February 2009, Government Policy on Open Source, Open Standards and Re–Use

Summarised highlights from the policy:

  • Government procurement will fairly consider open source solutions alongside proprietary ones and will take into account total cost of ownership, including exit and transition costs.
  • The Government will, wherever possible, avoid becoming locked in to proprietary software.
  • The Government will require solutions to comply with open standards.
  • Where appropriate, general purpose software developed for government will be released on an open source basis.

US Department of Defense

October 2009, Guidance regarding Open Source Software]. and a news report.

US Navy

April 2006, US Navy Open Technology Development Roadmap Plan.

Describes how the US Navy will migrate to Open Technology Development when purchasing and building software.

Open Technology Development combines salient advances in the following areas:
* Open Standards and Interfaces
* Open Source Software and Designs
* Collaborative/Distributive culture and the and online support tools
* Technological Agility

Also, a much shorter news article on the same topic from March 2008. The Navy will acquire only systems based on open technologies and standards.

The Original Paper was stored here.

Open Source Software Economics

April 2007, [

The Economic Motivation of Open Source Software: Stakeholder Perspectives]

Dirk Riehle. "The Economic Motivation of Open Source Software: Stakeholder Perspectives." IEEE Computer, vol. 40, no. 4 (April 2007). Page 25-32.

Norwegian Mapping Authority

From the OSOR News item published Mar 24, 2010

The Norwegian Mapping Authority (Statens Kartverk) is the central organisation for the provision of mapping images to most public bodies and organisations in Norway. After experiencing a vast increase in requests for their services in 2006 and 2007, the Mapping Authority also had to deal with an increasingly overstrained IT infrastructure. The licenses for their infrastructure however were very costly, and acquiring additional licenses would only increase the financial burden consistently in the future. The Mapping Authority therefore chose to employ an IT infrastructure based on open source software solutions, which were free of licensing costs and which proved to be much better, performance wise. In the process of introducing the new IT infrastructure, the team had to build up own expertise in order to maintain a functioning system. With the help of online communities, this has been a great success for the Mapping Authority.

Why write a Case Study?

A case study discusses how a specific situation was identified, which solutions were investigated and selected, and a summary of the results.

Solution architects use relevant case studies to support a solution they are building.

Writing a case study about your project gives others the confidence to follow in your footsteps which in turn increases investment in your tools of choice. Publishing your experience gives positive feedback to those involved in your project, reinforcing your success, encouraging colleagues to take on additional challenges, allowing the project to continue to grow.

We would like to see case studies which cover a range of use cases, especially from organizations with a low risk tolerance. Many organizations approach Open Source in little steps gradually integrating it with existing infrastructure and find targeted small case studies valuable.

What to write?

One to three pages is good, with a graphic per page.

The case study should cover:

  • Date
  • Problem
  • Evaluations
  • Implementation, including integration with other infrastructure
  • Problems faced and how they were overcome
  • Return on Investment
  • Future plans
  • Who else might benefit from your experience

More hints found by googling: How to write a Case Study

How to publish?

Consider submitting an article to the OSGeo Journal. Here are the basic guidelines for authors.