I am posting this question as a result of several discussions I had recently with customers. I am aware it's not a representative pattern, because I typically serve smaller companies and individuals, but in my opinion the topic is important generally.
My customers use BM (or more often BMPV because of very good price offer in the past) as drawing tool only, with spatial data support. BM was often used because INSPIRE and other data are important, and even when not well supported in V8i versions (WFS, WMTS, local formats...), it was still better than in plain MicroStation. In V8i, it works quite fine, because it's "like MicroStation", so experience and setting can be shared easily and it allows to access data in ad-hoc style and to create output on top of them.
When talking about "BM as GIS", it's much worse. Right now I have only one customer who use BM as GIS tool, all other left Bentley platform towards to competitive (better supported with more advanced functionality).
All these users are now evaluating a migration to CONNECT Edition. They are usually have mixed environments with MicroStation, PowerDraft or civil products. Sometimes competitive tools like AutoCAD or ArcGIS are also used in parallel. The question is: What is the future and directions of OpenCities Map? Does make it sense to move to CE platform, or to plain MicroStation / PowerDraft, or to some competitive platform?
I must admit, that I have had no clear answer or recommendation for them. And I realized I have no idea what OCM product line should be used for, what are development aim, targeted areas and workflows and competitive strengths. Whereas I see priorities and quite clear directions for products like MicroStation (the platform in general), OpenRoads Designer or GenerativeComponents, because there are active discussions, webinars, SIG sessions etc. available, OCM world looks more like "we gave up".
It is a bit complicated to talk about GIS today:
So, what is OCM expected to be?
So, what is unique feature of BM and what is its development priority?
Maybe it's 3D GIS, but it's something very specific, not interesting for 99% of users. Which does not mean it's wrong, because when old users will be lost, new ones can be found. But now, what users tell me, this platform cannot be trusted as stable for such expensive decision like the migration. Even when the migration to competitive platform is typically quite expensive (data conversion, users training etc.), in long term perspective it seems to be cheaper, because: directions are known, the solutions are well supported locally, there are companies available to develop local specific tools and there are best practices how to go for web, which is crucial.
So, end of whining. May I ask for some insight what is the future? When the current surviving mode will change to "we are on edge, these features are breaking news and we are able to offer bigger value than our competitors, including supporting local regulations and specifics"?
thanks very much for Your questions!
I have for example two bad experiences in my company:
- in 2016 we start using GeoWebPublisher, today when we still don´t have all done in intranet, is clear that next year we will stop paying Select for this product (without future); I was hoping that Bentley would offer some help with another solution, no offer
- is year 2020 and our software extension for Bentley desktop software still don´t use Connect version – Bentley Select price (discount) is about how is using Connect version – but our systems needs at least V8i SS10.
Pavel Zobal said:I was hoping that Bentley would offer some help with another solution, no offer
It seems Bentley gave up any activity in web publishing. In fact, there are not many companies now developing full featured GIS publishing (of course ESRI, but it's huge complex solution). There are rational reasons behind such decision, because every installation is often highly custom, but the other companies offer best practices, tools etc. how to implement web server using open-source stack (typically PostgreSQL/PostGIS + GeoServer or MapGuide), using QGIS Cloud or similar.
Unfortunately there are no tools for anything :-( ... data processing / cleaning / quality check (especially when XFM is stored in DGN, not in DB), data migration etc.
Pavel Zobal said:is year 2020 and our software extension for Bentley desktop software still don´t use Connect version
Based on my experience (as I have participated on several MicroStation V8i > CE migration projects), the migration is "controlled" by several requirements and conditions, and all have to be (partially at least) fulfilled:
In this situation, as I expressed in my original question, it's quite understandable question of some customers "Why to migrate to CE platform?", when there is no clear future and even when the migration to another platform is more expensive (but the difference is often no so big), but operation / maintenance cost is just fraction (because of available of tool, knowledge base etc.)?
Bentley Accredited Developer: iTwin Platform - AssociateLabyrinth Technology | dev.notes() | cad.point
Hi. I'm sorry to hear that you find the OpenCities Map SDK fragmented. It is true that the Microstation SDK has been transformed quite a bit from the previous generations. Unfortunately, with all those changes comes a higher cost to migrate. When porting Bentley Map to OpenCities Map CONNECT Edition, we took the decision to keep the API as close as possible to the previous generation so that our users and 3rd party developers would have an easier time porting existing applications. At the time we thought that was the best decision.
When moving to CONNECT Edition, the file format has not changed. We do not force any data migration to spatial databases, projects can continue to work with their data sources and repositories as before for the most part. If you are interested in migrating to a spatial database, I would like to hear more about your needs.
I would also like to hear about the issues that are preventing your applications to be ported to the CONNECT Edition. Maybe there are things we can help on?
Bentley is developing tools that can work efficiently on the web. You can have a look at iModelJs for example.
thanks for your answer. Honestly, I expect there will be faster response than 3 weeks for such basic question :-(
Unfortunately you did not answer my main question: What is future direction and priorities of Bentley Map development. Without such justification, it's hard to discuss anything else, because it can be limited to particular features or bugs, but without any prioritization or broader context.
Martin Roy said:I'm sorry to hear that you find the OpenCities Map SDK fragmented.
Sorry, but it is. No doubts.
There is not single piece of documentation / intro / tutorial, explaining concepts, structures, types of APIs (several separate of managed, old C native, VBA...). Just a few chm files. No use cases, real example (not API examples, but example demonstrating anything more complex).
It's like to take several puzzle games (native, COM and NET APIs for different functionalities), to take only some pieces from every set (old DB, DGN based, spatial connection, new MapManager features), and expect such game can be played (puzzle will be built). But no information what pieces can fit together, what not, what is the context and relationships. So just a mess.
Martin Roy said: It is true that the Microstation SDK has been transformed quite a bit from the previous generations.
It's not important whether it was transformed or not. When stable and without bugs, the quality of API is often defined by quality of documentation, not whether API structure is the best in the world.
It's one from core feature of the whole product, not API only: Different tools/technologies (data access, data creation, topology cleanup, spatila analysis, scripting...) work only with some data and projects (mslinks, XFM DGN, XFM spatila, plain DGN data).
Martin Roy said:We do not force any data migration to spatial databases
My experience from earlier versions has been very different: hybrid (DGN + mslinks to DB) did not work, plus some features (I reported some in the past) do not work with data structure at all. Plus, because you do not deliver any data quality / data cleanup tool, the only way how to clean the data, keep maintenance possible and ensure at least something will work fine, is to migrate data to spatial database.
Martin Roy said:projects can continue to work with their data sources and repositories as before for the most part.
It's nice theory, but too close to marketing promise, but far from reality.
I am too tired and annoyed to test every released version, to report blocking bugs, find migration steps by myself because not documented. I have only one customer customer using BM as GIS, and he sees no reason to pay for testing, reporting bugs and finding workarounds for things that is expected they will work and will be documented properly. Especially when local support is just zero and competitive platforms are localized (using correct terminology, not such **** as Czech Bentley Map GUI, translated by somebody who never heard about GIS, official GIS terminology and probably used copy-paste from Google/Bing translators), and typical workflows and situations are described.
So not, the migration is painful.
Martin Roy said:If you are interested in migrating to a spatial database
Personally I am not interested, because it's not win-win business case for me. To learn all specific aspects, how it's implemented in BM, especially using user-agressive Geospatial Administrator GUI, is just time and money lost when there are no business opportunities, but only one customer.
But it seems to be the only way in long term planning ... or to go move to another solution.
Martin Roy said:I would like to hear more about your needs.
It's quite simple: From very old (GeoGraphics based) project, converted somehow to XFM mslink based, to transform into SQL Server spatial data. I have never ever seen any best practices + tool for such process, that I am sure (based on my experience from some projects based on open source) will involve e.g:
I think these steps, best practices and workflows are common and should be integral part of any GIS product documentation. But because there is not Bentley Map knowledge base available...
Martin Roy said:I would also like to hear about the issues that are preventing your applications to be ported to the CONNECT Edition.
I have nothing Bentley Map specific to be migrated.
Long time ago I gave up my effort to develop anything on Bentley Map API. There have not been enough time and budget to learn everything from scratch without proper documentation and good tools: Even simple GIS tool with workflow select feature + another feature, display dialog, enter values, process them and based on result start drawing is just nightmare: How to set method / operation (and what they mean, how they should be used?), what should be implemented in code, how to work interactively with XFM dialogs etc. Documentation is "only about API", describing concepts not described anywhere or in just few sentences, written by somebody who already knows complete context, relations and dependencies.
There is even single one demo how to write application (not how to write code snippet solving one task, without any context) from beginning to end, what API to use to what etc. I have no time to analyze everything myself from code and examples (as I did e.g. for EC data in the past in V8i, but there are many business opportunities).
Martin Roy said:Bentley is developing tools that can work efficiently on the web. You can have a look at iModelJs for example.
Is it a kind of joke? I asked for web for GIS. Moreover iModelJS, that I monitor carefully from beginning and I tried to wrote some code already (but it's not priority and my TypeScript and web environment is not good enough), but it's technology, not product.
Product can be iTwin Design Review or i-model Hub, but they are very good examples how Bentley are typically excellent in technologies, but very bad in designing end-user products and their promotion and explaining to users So far all people do not understand how it works, what is workflow (because it's seriously overcomplicated) and where benefits are.
Moreover, nothing from these technologies support 2D drawing now, it's not even possible to display simple 2D design (map) in iTwin Design Review. And when talking about GIS web output: I am not aware of any support for interactivity (select feature, display complex query result), support for thematic mapping and resymbolization etc. And of course, it's not live or pre-cached publication from database, so cannot be used i GIS are at all (but maybe in asset management, but in such case I do not believe such critical data can be uploaded to cloud).
Plus, I do not see anything like "Bentley Map iModelBridge" in the list.
BTW Bentley often fights with partners (becase we are Bentley, we can do everything ourselves), limits every possible development (even to be hobby in-house developer, you have to sign agreement, which block 99% of people interested in to test to learn coding, BDN program is just disaster, all competitors offer much much much better) and also because of lack of local staff, there is zero knowledge about local specific, rules et.c
Conclusion: I do not see any future for Bentley Map, when compared with what customer need and competitors offer (only to use BM as simple drawing tool with limited support of spatial data sources). It does not mean this product cannot excel in some specific areas, but it's not clear where they are, they are not explained and demonstrated.
One more example, why I am so pessimistic and I think the situation is just a tragedy (plus I am supported in this mood also by my customers):
Three puzzle pieces, who normal customer (user or manager) is not able to put together in the right and expected shape.
I do not recall any documentation, which I treated as absolute basic (and has been asked for by customers often), describing e.g.
It's end-user solution, but nobody care to identify benefit, explain it and really sell it to customers. And all customers in the past interested in at least testing of mobile access, stop this initiative because of lack of clear documentation and information (how Map Mobile is licensed has been changed and unclear so many times, to find the cost even now is complete disaster).