Astun & OSGeo
Astun Technology is the UK market leader for Enterprise solutions built on OSGeo foundations. Astun provides enterprise-ready, high-quality services such as training, support and consultancy in GeoServer, GeoNetwork, PostGIS, QGIS, MapServer,OpenLayers & GDAL/OGR. Over 60 organisations rely on Astun to support their endeavours including Government Agencies, Local Authorities, National Parks, Blue Light Services, Social Housing, Utility companies and other commercial organisations.
Astun is actively involved in the OSGeo community employing well known members including Antony Scott, Jo Cook, Ian Turton, Matt Walker and Mike Saunt. Our team of OSGeo experts and enthusiasts have over 250 years cumulative experience in the geospatial industry and Astun encourages and supports staff in volunteering and contributing within the Open Source, Open Data and humanitarian mapping communities.
Our 'Open' Philosophy
At Astun we are passionate about ‘Open’ because we believe that it gives us the freedom to innovate and integrate and you the freedom to reap the benefits of geographic intelligence without financial constraint or vendor lock-in.
Working as part of a wide community of developers and users has enriched our business, so we want to put something back. Astun is committed to supporting the community whether through sponsorship of the OSGeo Foundation or providing support to local chapters such as OSGeo:UK and the events they organise such as the FOSS4G:UK conference and QGIS User Groups.
We believe that the community needs to be well funded to be sustainable and in 2016 we contributed in excess of £10,000 to various Open Source projects as sponsorship and / or funding code development. We also contributed over 90 man days of our staff’s time in helping with events, code sprints, hacks and other activities.
In addition to Astun's contributions, we are extremely proud that our team have given up around 25 days of their own personal time for various community contributions including volunteering for MapAction and contributing to open source code sprints.
Open Source software (sometimes referred to as Free and Open Source Software or FOSS) is developed collaboratively by communities of companies and independent developers. The source code can be freely accessed and modified by anyone supporting rapid evolution of capabilities, bug fixing and responses to specific client requirements. At the recent FOSS4G conference in Nottingham Paul Ramsey, one of the keynote speakers, summarised the Open Source model as:
“FOSS, you get what you pay for, everyone gets what you pay for, you get what everyone pays for”
The OSGeo Foundation is the umbrella organisation for a wide range of projects including spatial databases, web map servers, web development frameworks, catalogue servers and desktop GIS. These projects are developed and supported by a team of thousands worldwide. They have achieved a level of maturity and robustness that has convinced some of the world’s largest internet businesses, government agencies and commercial organisations to go ‘Open’.
Astun’s iShare platform and bespoke solutions are underpinned by our choice of best in class Open Source geospatial technologies.
- Our cloud hosted solutions run on the Linux operating system
- Our spatial data warehouse is built on top of PostGIS
- iShare Maps and iShare GIS use MapServer and OpenLayers to deliver map images and interaction
- Our Get INSPIREd solution is based upon GeoNetwork
- Astun Data Services use MapProxy to optimise map data caching
- Several of our bespoke solutions have used GeoServer as an easily managed web mapping server.
- And, of course, we offer full support, training and plugin development for QGIS - our favourite desktop GIS
Open Standards enable you to share data with other systems within your organisation or with external partners and customers.
The technologies that we deploy in our solutions provide full support for the key Open Geospatial Consortium standards that have become mandatory across the public sector:
- Web Map Service (WMS)
- Web Feature Service (WFS)
- Catalogue Service for the Web (CSW)
The idea that public data should be free for everybody to access, use and re-publish without constraint has been gaining ground for a number of years. In the UK the government’s Data.gov.uk open data initiative has seen a wide range of data sets becoming available, additionally a worldwide crowd-sourcing community has created OpenStreetMap with astonishing results.
Astun has worked with our clients to simplify access to a number of Open Data products including:
- Ordnance Survey OpenData
- National crime statistics from police.uk
- Health data from NHS Choices
- Schools performance data from Edubase
- Local democracy data
- OpenStreetMap GB (reprojected into OSGB)
FUD - Fear uncertainty and doubt!
If you are new to Open Source you may have heard some less than favourable comments from sales people and users of proprietary software which may prompt Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). Here are some common misconceptions:
Open Source software isn’t reliable
Most of the web runs on Open Source underpinnings. Google, Facebook and IBM all make massive use of Open Source software and contribute extensively to its development. The majority of ‘mission critical’ systems incorporate some Open Source components including operating systems, web servers and the Java development environment.
In the last few years Governments across the western world have actively promoted or even mandated the use of Open Source.
You can’t get ‘proper’ support for Open Source software
Open Source software has a worldwide developer community, many of whom are engaged in supporting users on a daily basis. You always have the freedom to seek support from one of the many alternative providers rather than being tied to your original supplier.
Astun offers enterprise support on its iShare platform and on the underlying OSGeo technologies.
Bugs don’t get fixed in Open Source Software
“A problem shared is a problem solved”
Open Source software is developed collaboratively which tends to mean that ‘many eyes’ are engaged in quality control and subsequent fixes. The time to fix for critical flaws is at least as fast if not faster than for competitive products.
Open Source software isn’t really free
When we talk about Free and Open Source Software we are using ‘free’ in the sense of ‘free speech’ rather than ‘free beer.’ You are ‘free’ to deploy the software as you wish, on as many servers or instances as you need and to scale usage as demand increases.
Of course we need to pay our staff and operating costs in the same way that other software and services businesses do! So when you want new features adding to our software or when you need training and support for your software we and other Open Source software businesses will charge you to deliver those services.