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Wide Open Spaces: Using MySQL as a Web Mapping Service Backend
Posted by: Edwin DeSouza
Date: February 02, 2009 12:50AM

Wide Open Spaces: Using MySQL as a Web Mapping Service Backend

Even without being the problems of a nonexistent software budget and a 6 month time constraint, the task of serving out geo-spatial data in a Web Mapping Service (WMS) format is daunting. Many organizations in this position have opted to buy commercial licenses from a well established geo-spatial company and be done with it. Often times this requires buying a proprietary geo-spatial software package, a proprietary database license and expert help with installation. However, this does not reduce the need for personnel to maintain the system, create new WMS layers, and update the database with new geo-spatial data.

We were given the above problem and constraints in dealing with an experiment that was designed to test the use of geo-spatial information sharing amongst different government organizations. Our presentation will go about how to do this with a completely open source solution.

The first step was to get an open source WMS server. For this task we chose the Minnesota MapServer software tool. MapServer is an Open Source development environment for building spatially-enabled internet applications. It includes the ability to set up WMS according to Open Geographical Consortium (OGC) standards. Basic background of Mapserver will be presented and there will be discussion of its ability as well as its limitations of integrating with MySQL through the Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (GDAL) OGR library.

The second step was to set up the MySQL database backend. MySQL spatial type columns were used to store the geo-spatial data, and spatial indicies were applied to these columns. A determination had to be made of how to get geo-spatial information into the service. This was done in two ways. The first was using scripting to take shapefiles and import those into MySQL tables. The second was to build a “point and click” interface in which a user was able to create simple point, multi-point, line, and polygon shapes and save those directly to the correct WMS layer. This front end was a mashup of Google Maps, PHP, and javascript.

Finally there was the interaction piece. Our system had to interact with commercial and open source WMS viewers used by the participants of the experiment. We soon learned the fact that not all standards are created equal, or rather that not everyone who builds a geo-spatial viewer adheres to the same standard. This provided a new set of problems to solve and also required us to create a Web Feature Service (WFS) to link in data about each of the geo-objects placed on the map.

In conclusion, this presentation will cover the above topics and get into an in depth discussion about how MySQL fit in to each of the problems we overcame, and how the spatial features of MySQL could be expanded in order to add more features to the products that we have designed.

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Wide Open Spaces: Using MySQL as a Web Mapping Service Backend
February 02, 2009 12:50AM

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