I have a love/hate relationship with Autodesk.
One on hand, I love their MapGuide product, especially the new MapGuide Open Source / MapGuide Enterprise 2007 applications.
On the other hand, I hate the DWG file format. With each release, I have to worry about whether I’ll be able make the engineering department’s work available to the rest of the organisation, and that is exactly what Adena’s recent pointer to Evan Yares’ comments about the new DWG format had me doing.
After sitting on that for a few days, and starting to read some of the news that is leaking out about Autocad 2007 (the blogs listed by Shaan Hurley mostly seem focused on the new 3D environment) I was starting to get pretty disappointed. After all, there are some pretty compelling features in there and I’m going to get some major pressure to move our organisation to 2007.
Something seemed odd to me though. There was no real information on Autodesk Map 3D 2007 in those blogs. I had received a short blurb from my reseller about the new releases, but had not really read through it. So, I went back and did. Then I went on a hunt for more information on Map 3D 2007 and found some on the Taylor Technologies site. Wow!
It seems Autodesk has really focussed on GIS rather than CAD with this release. A long time limitation of Map was its reliance on the DWG format. Link Templates and Object Data were both pretty unreliable and inflexible ways of storing GIS data. Oracle Spatial was a pretty good option if you could afford it, but the recently added ArcSDE support seemed difficult to implement. Autodesk Map 2007 appears to blow most of these constraints away. Here’s why:
New read/write capabilities without conversion:
- MySQL Relational Database
- Microsoft SQL Server Relational Database (not sure how they’re storing spatial info in MSSQL)
- ESRI SHP Files
- Spatial Data File (SDF)
New direct access capabilities:
- Web Map Services (WMS)
- Web Feature Service (WFS)
Extra goodies that got thrown in include enhanced support for DWF, what look to be great new cartographic capabilities, and the ability to publish to MapGuide Enterprise 2007.
With that list, who could ask for anything more? Well… me :) I believe that all of these new formats are provided by Autodesk’s new open source FDO spatial data abstraction layer. Now, unless I’m seeing things, Autodesk has indicated that they will be releasing a PostGIS FDO provider with MapGuide Open Source. It’s possible that this provider did not make it into the 2007 release. Maybe Service Pack 1? :) Another feature that I would really like to see, and it may be in there already because I do not have access to the beta, is the ability to open MapGuide Enterprise 2007 DWF eMaps as background layers. This would allow for consistant corporate styling without the limitations of WMS, at least as a stopgap until MapGuide offers SLD support.
To bring us back to the start of this post, the one item on this list that I think may get overlooked is support for the Spatial Data File (SDF) format. SDF is a single-user database format, similar to ESRI’s personal geodatabase. It is built on top of SQLite, is fully open, and is already supported by MapGuide Open Source and (yay!) Safe Software‘s current FME betas. Now we can choose to use enterprise spatial data stores (Oracle, ArcSDE, PostGIS, MSSQL) for corporate data sets that warrant it, and use the SDF format for smaller projects that do not justify that level of effort. This removes the requirement for Autodesk GIS users to utilize DWG as anything but an an import/export format and working environment.
In municipal government, CAD tools are often the preferred way of maintaining spatial information, but in many cases this has left us with large interoperability barriers. Autodesk has made a huge leap in allowing us to choose the right geospatial tool for the job.