I wasn’t really going to comment on the formation of the MapServer Foundation until I had some time to think about it but since I’ve been getting IMs and emails about it all day I figure I’ll put some things down in a post. First if you haven’t read up on it, click on the link above to Adena’s article which is about the deepest I’ve read so far on the news.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about the goings on with MapServer, but I will say these “foundations” seem to be very popular these days to grow open source software. As for Autodesk? I’ve been a huge fan of MapGuide in the past, but the lack of development in it has pretty much killed it and if MapServer Enterprise allows them to offer product in the marketplace, then so be it. I’m hopeful that this should allow some trickle down into MapServer Cheetah (hmm, not sure about that name), but we’ll have to see how this works out in practice. The fear is that this won’t be too much of a two way street as many of the “enterprise” features will be of no use in the standard MapServer effort, but I’m sure many of the features created in Cheetah will eventually be incorporated into Enterprise. Forks are never good for software, but if managed well this should help grow MapServer. Then again part of the allure of MapServer was its community feel and if that is lost in this transition, it could affect the future growth of the product. Sean has some thoughts about this and I’m sure there are many like him out there questioning the future of MapServer.
Of course there are also many who have said MapServer can only grow if it leaves UMN behind and becomes its own entity. To have such a large and influential company such as Autodesk feel that they can base their next generation web mapping tool on an open source product says volumes to the work everyone on the MapServer project has done in the past. If Autodesk can grow the marketplace for MapServer without alienating many of those who built their businesses around implementing MapServer, it could be a win/win for all. I’m not sure of Autodesk’s experience with open source communities, but hopefully they have learned from others mistakes.
Most of the posts so far on Planet Geospatial I’ve seen on the subject are positive, but there are some lingering questions many have brought up. Hopefully in time they will be answered. Personally I can think of two instances where we proposed using MapServer, but were turned down because MapServer was OSS and wasn’t an approved vendor. I know for a fact both those times AutoCad was on site so I can only assume MapServer Enterprise would have gotten a better reception. Maybe that bodes well for all involved.