Autodesk has traditionally developed private source software, but recently adopted open source practices.
Autodesk’s Gary Lang explains how the progress in open standards, a shift from ‘core to context’ applications, and user demand for innovation motivated his company to release the code for their popular MapServer software. Web mapping is but one example of ways that standard APIs can create commodization opportunities.
Lang first sets up a framework for thinking about geospatial software development, noting the two paradigms from Eric S. Raymond’s famous book ‘The Cathedral and the Bazaar’. While there are plenty of purely proprietary or open source successes, Lang contends that robust standards and APIs facilitate migration of certain software genres, such as mapping, into the ‘bazaar’ model. Standardizations, organized largely by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation, have created a common framework for developers. The result has been a commoditizing shift for certain applications which no longer generate much revenue themselves. Instead, they begin to provide a rich context for delivery of related products and support. In such cases, it makes a lot of sense for companies to give away the context, such as the web mapping server, and then focus on selling services and desktop applications built on top of the server layer.