Map Servers

Map servers -- the CGI programs and servlets that render infinitely customizable map images of any scale, size, and format -- remain useful, even increasingly useful, in this tiled world. The MapServer project, for example, is climbing steadily up out of its own "trough of disillusionment" [see hype cycle] towards a 5.0 release next month. Two use cases are driving it forward. Some data are so dynamic that caching is unfeasible or even undesirable. Aircraft traffic is an obvious case. The other growing role for MapServer is that of a tile engine for applications like TileCache. Its already-good cartographic options are getting dramatically better, and longer rendering times become acceptable if your data changes on a time scale of several days or more.