Since it's been so long, maybe somebody should review the situation and see what has changed -- and what hasn't. smile 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.

    -- MattWilkie - 18 Feb 2004, 21 July 2005


    Summary: 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, 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:

    "...By using an existing web application server you can get the additional functionality with a minimal amount of work. I am using Zope, which is Python based, as my application server. It is also Open Source. It is a much better application server than the ArcIMS component. In addition to allowing you to distribute your application, and pool machines, it also handles user authentication, and gives Unix like permissions to files, URLs, and operations. It also handles publishing the sites easily. I haven't gotten around to using it to make the map files or the web site though. I use ArcView to make the map files and have someone else make the web site. Zope does allow me to share single html and JavaScript files across multiple web sites, which makes maintenance a lot easier. It is also possible to use Zope as a connector to ArcIMS so a single application could use both MapServer and ArcIMS (as well as other GIS engines). I am also aware of a Java based application server called Enhydra that is also Open Source. I have installed it, but haven't had much time to use it, so I can't really say what it can do. There are also commercial application servers available like IBM's WebSphere. You could probably do a lot with Cold Fusion as well.

    "That said, here is my 2 cents on the advantages and disadvantages of ArcIMS:

    "Advantages of ArcIMS

    • distribute applications over multiple machines
    • Native integration with the Geography Network. MapServer can be made to work within the geography network.
    • Includes software to handle routine tasks like making the map services (map files), designing web sites, etc.
    • Supports more data formats - especially raster
    • Better support for storing spatial data in RDBMS through SDE
    • You don't have to try to sell a relatively unknown product (MapServer) and philosophy (Open Source)

    "Disadvantages of ArcIMS

    • speed (even running mapserv as regular cgi it is much faster)
    • resource hog
    • limited OS (no Linux)
    • less stable. My ArcIMS experience is on NT so that may be more a reflection of the OS than ArcIMS.
    • poorer support
    • source code unavailable
    • cost"

    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 (now )


    This thread on related external sites:



    I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
    htmlhtml Mapserver_vs_ArcIMS.eml.html manage 98.2 K 2004-12-03 - 15:48 MattWilkie full text of all respondants


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