shrug-l: ArcGIS Alternative

Jordan, Jack Jack.Jordan at
Tue Apr 5 09:13:32 EDT 2011

A word of caution...never mention an option to Purchasing that you wouldn't be able to live with...because they just might choose that Doodlemapper swearware that runs only on an Elbonian operating system and comes with brass-instrument field dataloggers recovered from the sun-bleached remains of previous customers...


Jack Jordan

Jonathan D. Jordan
Engineering Specialist III
2001 Homeland-Garfield Road
Bartow, FL  33830
PH: (863) 534-7077
Fax: (863) 534-7143
Email: Jack.Jordan at

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From: shrug-l-bounces at [mailto:shrug-l-bounces at] On Behalf Of Hall, Melissa
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 9:01 AM
To: shrug-l at
Subject: RE: shrug-l: ArcGIS Alternative

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 it.
 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 culture.
 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 Sandell
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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