MapServer vs ArcIMS Comparison
A few years ago I spent some time researching the relative merits of two popular web-based map servers, MapServer and !ArcIMS. I posted the summary results of that research to a couple of places with a note saying that anybody who wanted the full results should contact me. Much to my surprise three and half years later I still get asked for them every month or two.
Since it's been so long, maybe somebody should review the situation and see what has changed -- and what hasn't. It won't be me. My job has pulled me in other directions, we aren't running any kind of mapserver anymore so my involvement in this question is minimal.
Anyway, the full respondant text is available at http://yukongis.ca/bin/view/Main/MapserverVsArcIMS. Feel free to pull whatever you want from that page and rework/update it here, which is actually the more appropriate place. I didn't want to just dump it here as the full text is about 100k.
--Matt Wilkie - 18 Feb 2004
Mapserver <==> ArcIMS comparison
20 Nov 2000
A few weeks I ago asked mapserver-users, esri-l, comp.infosystems.gis, and comp.soft-sys.gis.esri for comparitive comments on MapServer and !ArcIMS. (respectively http://mapserver.org/, http://www.esri.com/arcims/). Full text of all respondants is available on request.
Thank you to:
Andrea Goethals, University of Florida John Hockaday, Department of Environment, Australia Michael Kleih, Centro Comune di Ricerca-JRC Michael Anderson, Spatial Information Technologies, Inc. Chris Stuber, Silicon Mapping Solutions, Inc
Mapserver-users (MSU) responses were detailed and informative, while the other three forums responded with a resounding silence.
MSU unanimously acclaims MapServer as the better web-based gis map server, however it was pointed out the problem domains of MapServer and !ArcIMS overlap while !ArcIMS has a broader functionality set. In the words of Micheal Anderson:
"...I would like to point out that the scope of what ArcIMS and MapServer attempt to do is different. ArcIMS has several components designed to do things that MapServer alone doesn't address. This includes html and applet based viewers for the client as well as several components on the server. The components on the server include the application server, manager components, and the spatial servers. The spatial server is what renders the images, handles spatial queries, extracts features, etc. The manager components allow you to build "Map Services" (map files), create web sites using the map services, and publish the sites. The application server allows you to distribute pieces of your application over multiple machines and pool several machines to handle increased loads. It also allows you to use COM and Cold Fusion in your application as the "connector" between the web server and application server. ArcIMS has two additional components that start and stop processes and delete images on a schedule. MapServer alone is only analogous to the spatial server, but the other features can be added using other tools. Other than being able to use fewer data formats, MapServer is a better spatial server than ArcIMS's. By using an existing web application server you can get the additional functionality with a minimal amount of work."
After several attempts, I can't reduce the length of Micheal's message with out losing good info, so here is the rest of it:
All respondants felt MapServer's support (via the user community) and documentation is much more useful than ArcIMS?'. It was noted that often questions re:!ArcIMS went completely unanswered. A couple of people made the point that although Mapserver's documentation is better there are still some gaping holes; it is expected the newly formed documentation committee and mailing list will help address this issue.
Several said MapServer is easier to install and the maps are easier to maintain.
Most everybody said that MapServer is faster* although theoretically this should not be the case since Mapserver is a CGI while !ArcIMS is a Java app. (*nobody claimed !ArcIMS is faster, just not everybody made a speed comparison)
Those that made reliabilty comparisons felt that !ArcIMS is still buggy and undependable.
The one* plus !ArcIMS seems to have over MapServer is the GUI that allows development of the interface and equivalent to map files. There is an ArcView extension and an Arc AML which make producing Mapserver map files easier but they are still in development. There is also talk of developing a standalone map builder but I'm not sure how far along that project is yet. (*where the problem domains overlap)
There were incidental threads comparing MapServer to MapXtreme, and JShape where MapServer also came out on top.
Thanks to everybody who responded and a note to those who didn't: I'm quite willing to do this again. I'm disappointed nobody came to bat for !ArcIMS. I was hoping to be able to summarize a broader range of opinions. Than again, maybe it is simply true that MapServer is better than !ArcIMS.
Matt Wilkie * GIS Technician * Yukon Renewable Resources GIS <br> http://renres.gov.yk.ca/pubs/rrgis/
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