Green Fields

One of the points I make repeatedly when talking to people about how open source GIS and open source in general are penetrating the marketplace is that open source thrives in “green fields” environments.

“Green fields development” is a real estate term, referring to brand new housing build on previously un-developed land. I use it to refer to systems that are built fresh without having to fit into pre-existing technology infrastructure. Usually, green fields developments are undertaken by start-up companies, but sometimes larger companies will allow new developments to choose their own technology baseline.

Linux/Apache really took off as start-ups built out their web serving infrastructure. A whole new application category with no incumbent vendor. When they evaluated their technology options, start-ups could see Solaris/SunOne as one expensive option, and Windows/IIS as another less expensive option, and Linux/Apache as the least expensive option. Given approximate technical parity (80/20 rule) the choice is clear.

The same thing is happening now with the geo-start-ups. I found very interesting the technology list that Peter Batty laid out in his musings on a geo-start-up. PostgreSQL, PostGIS, Ruby, Python, web services. All very open, most open source. And this is an individual with an intimate knowledge of the various technology options available in the geospatial market-place.

We see the same thing in the kinds of people contracting us for work on PostGIS and Mapserver and web mapping apps. They are start-ups. They don’t have any built-in vendor biases. They are just choosing the infrastructure with the best price/performance, and open source is what they are choosing.