shrug-l: ArcGIS Alternative

Hall, Melissa Melissa.Hall at
Tue Apr 5 09:00:50 EDT 2011

I used MapInfo a few years back when I started with Food Lion.  It did
not have the same analytical abilities then, but I haven't kept up on

 We did end up switching to ESRI.  In the end the costs were close, but
the deciding factor was infrastructure.  As others have said, people
learn ESRI and it what most people know in the US and all the local
universities have ESRI based GIS programs.  I am not sure how you
capture that cost, but it was compelling when I was working with another
system.  It took me 6 months to learn and hiring anyone else was hard
because they would be losing a skill set.

 The other big concern from management was that we were going to end up
with a program that would be very hard to support long term.  While it
is great job security to work on a non-mainstream GIS most of the
options you have to increase the force on a project, like consultants
and contract/temp workers go away.  It makes your current staff a
absolute bottleneck

 The commercial options are pretty bad, if you need a real alternative I
would look to open source.  Some of the disadvantages of alternative
commercial software are offset by people who believe in the FOSS

 Of the FOSS options GRASS is the oldest and best developed, I can't
remember which program it is, but I think there is one university that
teaches it.  I like FMaps and it is coming along, but it probably will
not have the functionality you need if you have ArcInfo type analysis
needs, making GRASS the only possible option I am aware of.

The automation tools will just not be the same, FOSS systems tend to do
customization through programming, so if you do have C programming in
house be sure to include that in the budget because it is not really
going to be an option if you do make the switch.

I don't know how much of an issue it is for your organization, but if
you also need web, GRASS is probably not going to cut it by itself.  It
can handle a WMS import, but my limited understanding is that it often
chokes on REST services and other formats.  That might mean you find
yourself cut off from major data sources and that any possible savings
in software costs get eaten up by data acquisition costs. 



Melissa Hall

GIS Tech

Florida Division of Emergancy Management

Melissa.Hall at <mailto:Melissa.Hall at> 

(850) 413-9905 <> 


From: shrug-l-bounces at
[mailto:shrug-l-bounces at] On Behalf Of Keith
Sent: Monday, April 04, 2011 6:23 PM
To: shrug-l at
Subject: shrug-l: ArcGIS Alternative


Hey Shruggers,


My purchasing department is making me do a cost benefit analysis of
paying our annual maintenance to ESRI versus abandoning ESRI in favor of
some other GIS software, if there is such as thing.


Are there any comparable GIS suites out there that have the same, or
greater, functionality as Desktop and Server 10?


And what is there cost to replace, and implement, 2 ArcInfo concurrent
use licenses, 1 ArcGIS Server Std Enterprise license and 1 EDN license?


Silly exercise, but one I have to do nonetheless.


Keith Sandell, MBA

GIS Manager, Corporate Analytics

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

2101 Maryland Circle, Tallahassee, Florida 32303


ofc. 850.521.8341   |   cell 850.727.2897


"If we are to achieve results never before accomplished we must expect
to employ methods never before attempted." - Francis Bacon


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