I’ve been playing with Christopher Schmidt’s WPServer demonstration and I have to say it really makes me think about where GIS is going. Simply put, you can perform GIS analysis simply by clicking button on a simple web interface using all open source software. Jason Birch has a nice writeup on what you can do with the demo and I think most GIS analysts will be able to work though the tools without any instruction. But deep down we need to think about how this is changing GIS analysis.
This demo really can’t do much just yet, but the framework is there. I can imagine users using tools such as this WebProcessingServer and OpenLayers demo, rather than ArcView, Manifold or even QGIS to perform simple geoprocessing. Now this of course won’t replace the complex analysis that ArcGIS Desktop or even ArcGIS Server can accomplish, but why not use such lightweight tools for lightweight needs? I can’t stress enough the underlying message here.
Not only can you perform GIS analysis on the web, you can do it using freely available open source tools, you can do it with very simple websites, and it is very fast. This is definitely an area we all need to pay close attention to and I suspect BIG things are going to be happening here.
I had a talk with the Arizona State University MAS-GIS class last night and I wanted to demo this to them but unfortunately the demo was down. Hopefully some of them will be able to take a look at it today and see why this is so important to their future.