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Geofabrik offers commercial OSM WMS, releases source code under GPL

26.07.2010 | Frederik Ramm

OpenStreetMap WMS servers are hard to come by – because they are hard to operate. Running a WMS server always means a trade-off. You can have it render from vector data which makes it slow, or render from pre-computed raster tiles which makes intermediate zoom levels and reprojection ugly. You can use clever preprocessing but then you’re unlikely to be able to trace OSM updates quickly, or you opt for high-frequency updates but that again causes more load on your server. You can use Mapnik but the available WMS servers for that are not so good, or you can use the established UMN Map Server or Geoserver which have excellent WMS support but don’t achieve what has become the “standard” look and feel for OSM maps.

Geofabrik WMS displayed in Quantum GIS.

We think we have struck a nice balance between all these goals with our WMS server, which is available to customers immediately starting from EUR 35 per month. (We regret that we cannot make this available for free due to the cost involved for us, but will consider granting free access for OSM community projects.) The server runs from a continuously updated OSM database covering the whole world, and offers a clean Mapnik vector-based rendering in all projections and sizes. More on our product page.

At the same time, we’re making the software that runs our WMS – a special module for the Apache web server that talks directly to Mapnik – available as Open Source under the GPL license, which should allow anyone to install and run their own WMS server. There’s more on the OSM wiki.