I’m excited to announce that Azavea has joined the Eclipse Foundation and its new LocationTech working group. The decision to join LocationTech and Eclipse represents an increased commitment by Azavea to the open source geospatial software community.
The Eclipse Foundation has been around for several years and had historically cultivated an ecosystem of open source software tools that work with the Eclipse IDE. In recent years, it has extended its mission to focus more broadly on open source software, in general. LocationTech is a relatively new “working group” started a few months ago as a forum for businesses committed to development of open source tools for working with geospatial data. The first projects are starting to make their way through the incubation process. The most prominent of these projects is currently uDig, a desktop GIS client that uses the Eclipse IDE as both a user interface framework and an SDK to build custom spatial applications.
Why are we doing this? The past ten years has seen a steady increase in the use of open source tools to build geospatial software, including the increase of open source components in commercial software. Azavea has both adapted to this changing software ecosystem and encouraged it by contributing to open source software components, like OpenLayers, GDAL and PostGIS, and releasing new tools and products, like OpenTreeMap, DistrictBuilder and GeoTrellis under open source licenses. This is not a casual dalliance. As more software moves to cloud architectures, I believe open source software components will become central to building successful products and services. Further, I personally believe that communities of knowledge, culture and innovation are more vital and energetic when outcomes are shared, enabling others to more effectively build on past work. Open source software creates positive feedback loops that support communities based on non-zero sum interactions.
One of the things that attracted me to LocationTech is that the Eclipse Foundation is focused not just on supporting an open source software ecosystem but also on creating an environment where successful businesses can be built atop an open source foundation. Azavea is a B Corporation, so I like the focus on sharing knowledge and cultivating a vital community. But as a business owner, I also want to build a successful, growing and sustainable business that is both profitable and has the elbow room to invest in R&D and to give back with programs like Summer of Maps. The decision to join LocationTech is aimed at supporting both of these ideas.
LocationTech will only be as successful as the projects that it supports. uDig is a great start, but it’s going to require many more strong projects before it can become a nexus for open source geospatial software. We’re evaluating whether any of Azavea’s projects would be a good fit. Perhaps more on that front in the near future.
A couple of final notes. One of the intangible reasons we are joining LocationTech is Andrew Ross. Andrew is a real asset at Eclipse. He’s not only been helpful in answering our questions; he’s also made a great case without being pushy. Second, I was delighted to learn that Google followed our lead in joining LocationTech this week.