Tike, the Information Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland, is an expert organization providing services to other government organizations, including the Finnish Agency of Rural Affairs (FARA) and Finnish Food Safety Authority (FFSA). In addition to statistical and research services, Tike provides information technology services and builds web mapping applications to support their customers.
FARA has the responsibility in Finland for managing the agricultural subsidies transferred by the European Union. The amounts of money transferred on the basis of the data is quite high, and impacts large numbers of farmers, so the systems supporting FARA are very sensitive — they must be reliable and accurate, or there will be political consequences.
When the subsidy control system was changed to use WFS-T instead of a tailored proprietary transfer protocol, Tike selected OpenGeo's GeoServer, as the application with the best combination of full standards support and ease of deployment. Jukka Rahkonen is a GIS specialist with Tike, “I took my first lessons about WFS with MapServer, but soon I discovered that we would need WFS-T. Next I tried deegree but I am not an IT person, I am an agronomist, and configuring deegree was too hard for me. GeoServer started to work for me out of the box, and some WFS clients could even show the map from GeoServer WFS.”
As Tike moved the new WFS service into production, they researched options for support. “Even after two years experience on using basic WFS, starting to use WFS-T was a big step, and the EU subsidy application is very critical”, said Rahkonen, “The system just must work, and we wanted some extra security. OpenGeo was a natural choice because of their professional touch and best possible connection with Geoserver codebase. We did not want to make temporary fixes and be forced to maintain our own fork thereafter.”
The Enterprise support agreement Tike selected included priority bug-fixes and bundled hours of custom development. Deploying on their Oracle database, Tike found some issues in GeoServer's Oracle support, which OpenGeo addressed immediately. “[With OpenGeo, we got] better service, less expensive, faster response, no need to fight if a bug is a bug or something else”, says Rahkonen.
Tike also used their custom development hours, to prepare technology for their future applications, building a GeoExt application called "GeoEditor". The GeoEditor is a 100% web based application for managing data entry and manipulation. It uses the WMS and WFS services already published by Tike, and provides the user interface for interacting with the services. The future for GeoEditor is expected to be in applications with potentially very large user bases, where deploying custom desktop software is simply not an options.
The GeoEditor development and ongoing GeoServer support have been a successful relationship between Tike and OpenGeo. Asked how he felt about working with OpenGeo, Rahkonen said, “I can't say how it could be any better.”
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