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Manifold Internet Map Server
See the Manifold® Internet Map Server (IMS) page for an introduction to Manifold IMS. This page discusses the top ten advantages experienced users have reported for using Manifold IMS over old-fashioned IMS. Manifold IMS is a built in part of Manifold® Release 8 Ultimate,
There are many good reasons to use Manifold IMS instead of a legacy system such as ArcIMS. Manifold IMS provides much more power and functionality while being easier to use, easier to deploy and easier to maintain, all while being over 40 times less expensive. Users report that these Manifold advantages hold against both ArcIMS and newer Esri products such as ArcGIS Server. This page describes key advantages of Manifold IMS over older systems. We use Esri products as a typical example of legacy systems.
The Esri approach requires spending money on multiple different programs and, worse yet, becoming expert in different packages that, typically, were written at different times by different teams and implemented using different interfaces. No wonder ArcIMS sites are legendarily difficult to get running, and that implementors will often end up feeling so bruised by the process that they are afraid of changing anything for fear the web site will stop functioning.
In contrast, Manifold takes the more modern approach of using a single, integrated package. Once you go to the effort of writing and re-writing the millions of lines of code required for a modern, enterprise-class GIS engine it's not much more effort to equip that same engine with web-server interfaces as well as desktop console and keyboard interfaces. Manifold made that extra effort so that identically the same engine can function whether it is accessed in a web server scenario or through an interactive user console. That has a lot of benefits:
First, only one package need be purchased, installed, learned, configured and maintained. This has obvious savings in initial and recurrent cost, as well as great savings in training and labor. Second, because the same package is used throughout the process, from whipping data into shape to formatting and other configuration and then finally for publishing, you get the benefit of WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") workflow: what is published in IMS looks exactly like what was created on the desktop because it is identically the same engine rendering the data. This carries through all phases of the process: because the object model is the same, any programmatic parts of the site will work identically the same way. Because all features, such as spatial SQL are the same, these also will work identically the same way. This has enormous savings in time and labor. Third, because the same package publishes the data as is used to prepare it, the package can provide automated means to eliminate programming. The simplest way to create an IMS web site in Manifold is to launch Manifold as an ordinary desktop application, cobble up a project as you see fit until it looks the way you like and then choose File - Export - Web Page. Check off the options desired and Manifold will write your web page for you with zero programming required. Although experts will, of course, often desire to make their own customizations it is great for confidence building and debugging to know that you can always have Manifold create a web site for you in a matter of minutes as a fall-back or as an illustrated example to study while learning the system.
Top 10 Manifold Advantages
The following reasons are the top ten reasons Manifold users have reported for preferring Manifold IMS to ArcIMS or ArcGIS Server.
1. More power running 64-bit Windows
Release 8 runs as 64-bit code in 64-bit Windows. All Manifold products have run fully 64-bit for years. According to Esri's web site, ArcIMS not only does not run in 64-bits, it is not even fully certified as a mere 32-bit application when run in 64-bit Windows. Release 8 Ultimate x64 edition, at only $95, can run either in native 64-bit mode in Windows x64 operating systems or in 32-bit mode when 32-bit Windows operating systems are used. This makes it effortless and zero-cost for Manifold users to scale up to 64-bits.
The least expensive way to get more throughput from a web server is to install 64-bit Windows running 64-bit applications with ample amounts of very inexpensive RAM. No other performance measure comes close, not even installing multiple servers, to the "bang for the buck" obtained by moving to 64-bit computing using lots of modern, inexpensive RAM.
Running 32-bit Esri products in either 32-bit or 64-bit Windows wastes the performance potential of the operating system. It is like taking an eight cylinder automobile engine and cutting the spark plug wires so that only two cylinders operate. Running 64-bit Manifold in 64-bit Windows enables full-power functioning for maximum performance. The end result is being able to serve more visitors to the same web site with less cost in hardware or to serve more complex web sites without adding hardware cost.
2. More power running multi-core processors
Only Manifold System runs multiple threads for key processes through multicore processors or multiple processors on a mother board. All Esri web site references to multi-core processors state that ArcGIS and all other products mentioned on such pages do not utilize either multiple processor cores nor multiple processors on a motherboard. Although ArcIMS is not explicitly mentioned in such Esri web pages, users report it is unable to take advantage of multi-core processors or multiple processors on a motherboard.
It would be incomprehensible for a web professional not to use a manycore processor in a web server. In fact, many web professionals will routinely install web servers that feature not just manycore processors but also have two or more processor sockets so that two or more manycore processors can be used. A motherboard with two sockets with a 24 core processor in each will provide 48 processing cores, which can appear to Windows as 96 cores via hyperthreading. It's already easy to configure such systems to provide 48 cores or more at very low cost.
Esri software cannot take advantage of multiple cores as well as Manifold. Manifold IMS will take advantage of multiple cores for many key processes to deliver significantly better performance for your computing dollar. The end result is being able to serve more visitors to the same web site with less cost in hardware or to serve more complex web sites without adding hardware cost.
3. Ability to run one server instead of requiring multiple servers
For both 64-bit computing and multi-core computing a critical financial advantage from running Manifold is the ability to avoid running multiple web server machines to serve a given web site. It is a big financial advantage to run a single, more powerful machine instead of running several weaker machines. This is an additional benefit of Manifold's greater power that is often explicitly cited by users as a reason for choosing Manifold over Esri.
A single, modern, 64-bit, manycore machine loaded with ample, inexpensive RAM that runs 64-bit Manifold can handle millions of hits per day in many web site applications. If 64-bit Manifold can help your web application fit into a single, 64-bit, manycore web server, that is a huge financial and managerial gain that is worth striving for.
Even if you don't think your web application will ever get millions of hits, it still makes sense to plan for upside by starting with 64-bit Windows and 64-bit Manifold. Few things are as costly or as much regretted as wasting the opportunity to get scalability and growth potential virtually for free as a result of going 64-bits right at the outset.
4. Better, silo-free integration with enterprise DBMS
Unlike ArcIMS, Manifold applications (including Manifold IMS) can connect directly to spatial DBMS without requiring middleware. Unlike ArcIMS, Manifold uses the spatial DBMS vendor's own architecture or uses "open" standards. The direct connection between Manifold and the DBMS is faster, more reliable, easier to set up, easier to debug and easier to maintain. ArcIMS requires the use of ArcSDE middleware, which is a separate, very expensive package. Worse still, ArcSDE interposes Esri's own proprietary SDE interfaces instead of using the DBMS vendor's architecture directly.
Manifold interacts with enterprise DBMS in a GIS setting using the DBMS vendor's own data types and access methods, so that data that is read/written/edited via Manifold can also be accessed by any other application using that DBMS's standards. A good example is Oracle.
The leading enterprise DBMS with "spatial" capabilities in the DBMS is Oracle. Manifold can connect directly to Oracle using Oracle's own Oracle Call Interface (OCI) and directly use Oracle Locator and Oracle Spatial capabilities using Oracle's own SDO_GEOMETRY and GeoRaster data types to read/write/edit vector or raster data. Any of hundreds of other applications that interact with Oracle can simultaneously work with that same data within the centralized geospatial data warehouse. Manifold works exactly the same way using the native spatial standards of other enterprise DBMS packages such as SQL Server, IBM DB2 with IBM Spatial Extender and PostgreSQL/PostGIS.
Manifold's direct connection to Oracle and other spatial DBMS packages (a built-in part of Release 8) is available however Manifold is used: as a desktop application, as an objects library or as Manifold IMS. This makes it easy to set up projects and verify them before deploying to web servers. Manifold provides the widest array of silo-free, direct connections to spatial DBMS of any GIS vendor: Manifold can connect directly to Oracle Spatial, IBM DB2 with IBM Spatial Extender, PostgreSQL/PostGIS and even direct connections to Microsoft's SQL Server spatial product.
In the case of DBMS packages that do not have built-in spatial types (such as SQL Server), Manifold offers choice of a variety of spatial types, including "open" GIS types such as OGC WKB which are well-documented and used by hundreds of different software packages. Esri, in contrast, forces use of Esri's own middleware stack.
One last consideration is that ArcSDE is phenomenally expensive. To match the functioning of a direct connection to DBMS as well as IMS that one gets in a $95 Manifold Release 8 package, it is possible in many parts of the world to spend $50,000 just for a single license of ArcSDE plus ArcIMS. Even in the US users will spend tens of thousands of dollars for ArcSDE + ArcIMS.
5. More functionality
Because Manifold IMS is the same as Manifold itself, a Manifold IMS installation automatically benefits from the vast array of features described in the over 5000 pages of the Manifold user manual. For example, the Manifold Ultimate license used for IMS installations delivers all Manifold enterprise features plus all three Manifold extensions. That gives IMS applications access to capabilities like profiles and elevations in surfaces, watershed/hydrology analysis and so forth. In contrast, because Esri ArcIMS is a separate package, you don't get all of the features in ArcIMS you might read about in other Esri packages.
Because Manifold IMS is the same program as Manifold itself, you automatically gain access to numerous functional and development facilities within Manifold. A great example is spatial SQL, which is easy to use to provide phenomenal spatial analytic power to web sites. Other examples include geocoding functionality, vast capabilities with projections, sophisticated DBMS capabilities, integrated raster capabilities and integrated 3D terrain visualization. Manifold can even take advantage in dozens of functions of massively-parallel GPGPU architectures to achieve supercomputer peformance using inexpensive GPU cards to run thousands of GPU cores per server. ArcIMS has no parallel GPU computation capabilities.
Finally, Manifold IMS is not just an ordinary HTML map server. Manifold IMS also provides Manifold image server capability like that seen in Virtual Earth and Google Earth, OGC WMS "open" image servers and even OGC WFS-T (feature server with edit-back transactions) server capability, which allows OGC WFS-T clients to edit through the web portal data that could be resident on some remote spatial DBMS. Some legacy IMS packages charge thousands of dollars extra for things like WFS-T capability.
6. One object model instead of multiple object models
Because Manifold IMS is the same program as Manifold itself, there is only one, consistent object model programmers need learn. In dramatic contrast, Esri ArcIMS uses a different object model than other Esri products, which is a cruel trap for programmers.
Non-trivial web applications using an IMS will often utilize programming to customize the functionality and appearance of the application. Such web sites will require several phases of development, including acquiring and organizing the data to be used in the site, writing and verifying the program logic and algorithms used against that data and then finally creating, deploying and debugging the actual web application itself.
In the case of Esri products, different packages are used for those different phases, each of which often will require programming. Because those different packages utilize different object models the programmers involved in the development of the web site will need expert familiarity with those differences so that they can make changes in their work when different Esri packages are involved. Any experienced development manager will immediately see that such a situation is a formula for disaster.
Setting aside the potential for error, many experienced Esri developers remark that they often end up coding each application two or three times during different phases of development and usage to deal with the vagaries of different Esri object models.
In contrast, because Manifold IMS is Manifold itself, the exact same object model applies throughout. Programmers use a single, identical interface throughout all phases of the project. What is written and debugged once stays written and debugged throughout.
7. Easier to learn, easier to deploy and easier to maintain
Because Manifold IMS is Manifold itself, learning Manifold interactively also teaches capabilities in Manifold IMS. It is a lot easier to learn a package interactively with the full support of interactive menus and commands, using the keyboard and mouse, than it is to attempt to get your head around some programmatic "black box" like ArcIMS.
With Manifold one can simplify the process into smaller steps, each of which can be accomplished easily with low risk. Projects can be developed within Manifold interactively with no programming risk at all. Once developed, they can be published in trial form automatically using Manifold's Export Web Page dialog to create a web site without programming. The sites thus written by Manifold can then be customized while learning the system, secure in the knowledge that at any point one can fall back to the automatically-written web site to help resolve any difficulty.
More advanced web applications can be prototyped within interactive Manifold sessions using the programming development environment built into Manifold. Esri requires scripting outside of Esri products, but within Manifold one can actually pop open a script window and write code within Manifold itself, using any ActiveX or .NET programming language. This allows very rapid development and prototyping using standard Microsoft languages within Manifold itself.
Most web sites are not static. They change over time as data changes and business processes and requirements change. The hardware and host operating system will change over time. The GIS tools used will change over time. At all stages of the game, you must be able to confidently and reliably evolve your web site at low cost. Manifold makes this easy. Esri makes it very difficult and very expensive.
Almost all organizational web sites will require major GIS functionality in several key areas: data intake, preparation, editing, and update; interaction with DBMS; programming and finally, actual IMS publication in conjunction with a web server. Manifold provides all functions in a single integrated package. Everything works together automatically as Manifold evolves because Manifold releases are published as single, integrated updates. Routine updates are free and include automatic support for new versions of Windows. When a new version of Windows emerges all parts of Manifold support it on the same day, because Manifold is a single, integrated package.
In contrast, Esri provides required functions using separate packages, for example, the ArcGIS suite of products, ArcSDE and ArcIMS. Those separate packages have separate product life cycles as Esri releases different versions at different times. The web developer using Esri therefore has to constantly worry about resolving multiple gotcha's and repeat re-integration as Esri desktop, SDE and IMS applications are independently revised. That's especially difficult and costly if at the same time the web developer must re-integrate such complex packages when the DBMS vendor issues updates or when the hardware vendor upgrades hardware, or the development system is revised or Microsoft issues Windows updates.
8. Microsoft Windows 11 support today
Manifold has a total commitment to Microsoft technologies. Esri has historically lagged in supporting Microsoft technologies, often deploying support for key Microsoft technologies well after Manifold.
Manifold begins work with emerging Microsoft technologies years ahead of their release to the general public. That's why Manifold was the first to run 64-bits in 64-bit Windows and why Manifold supports Windows 11 today. It's also why Manifold was the first GIS to support built-in programming using Microsoft ActiveX scripting languages and then later the first GIS to support built-in programming using Microsoft .NET languages like C# and VB.NET. Manifold was the first GIS (and the first IMS) to include use of Microsoft's .NET Framework and Manifold is the only GIS and IMS that has been tracking the .NET Framework in near real-time as it evolves into new versions.
Manifold was the only GIS vendor to ship built-in native spatial support for Microsoft's spatial DBMS product, Microsoft SQL Server spatial even before it came out of beta for public use. In contrast, Esri has lagged behind Manifold in supporting Microsoft technologies and at times has even chosen alien technologies in opposition to Microsoft standards.
Extensive use of Microsoft technologies in Manifold guarantees that a Manifold IMS application will automatically take advantage of the billions of dollars Microsoft spends to assure that major Microsoft updates will continue to support those Microsoft standards upon which your application depends.
9. More Powerful Improvements
Manifold delivers by far the most powerful improvements of any GIS vendor, such as the massive upgrades now being rolled out in Release 9. Updates now average hundreds of improvements per year, including a range of new features as well as bug fixes and other improvements. The large number of improvements assure that not only is Manifold more responsive to the wishes of the Manifold user community but that any bugs which do arise are rapidly identified and eliminated.
Although not as many organizations host IMS web sites as use GIS interactively, with Manifold even the relatively smaller IMS user community will benefit from optimizations and other improvements prompted by the very much larger community of interactive Manifold users. For example, recent dramatic increases in performance of topology algorithms will help the performance of IMS sites even though they were originally suggested by non-IMS users.
Also, by thoroughly embedding Microsoft technologies within the common Manifold engine that runs IMS as well as all other Manifold uses, manifold.net assures that any advances in Microsoft technologies, such as improved internal performance or new .NET features, will automatically create a better product for Manifold IMS users as well.
10. Dramatically lower initial cost and recurring costs
Typical Manifold IMS costs are on the order of 40 times less than typical Esri ArcIMS costs, even though the ArcIMS solution will usually do less and offer lower performance on a modern web server. Recurring costs with ArcIMS tend to be much higher than Manifold IMS as well.
Note that a Release 8 license includes full enterprise capability, including direct connection to Oracle Spatial, SQL Server spatial and other spatial DBMS use as well as full enterprise IMS capability, including the full range of HTML server, image server, WMS server and WFS-T server capability. An attempt to duplicate that same range of capabilities with Esri products would require at least ArcSDE in addition to ArcIMS for even greater cost, requiring tens of thousands of dollars more per installation. Further, Esri requires expensive maintenance fees and upgrade fees for much greater recurring costs than Manifold IMS.
Any other Factors?
Yes: what ultimately counts is what software works for you. None of the above factors are determinative if there is one particular thing you need to do in Esri that doesn't exist in Manifold, or if the one thing you really like about Esri is not done to your taste in Manifold. Only you can be the judge of such tradeoffs, and usually that can only be judged by getting the product and learning it well enough to really see how it works for you.
Manifold Release 8 is inexpensive, only $95, so it's easy to try without significant financial risk.
Visit the following pages for additional, detailed information on Manifold IMS:
- Internet Map Server - Manifold IMS home page.
- IMS Requirements - Hardware and software requirements for running Manifold IMS.
- Live IMS Examples - Live examples of IMS running on manifold.netservers, with links to complete source code for examples.
- IMS FAQ - Frequently asked questions and answers.
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