GISVM article at InfoGEO

infoGeoAn introduction article to GISVM has been published at the popular Brazilian magazine InfoGEO by MundoGeo. The article has been writen in colaboration with Fernando Quadro and I make it available here, translated into English:


Virtualizing your GIS

A lot has been said about virtualization, especially with the increase in the processing capacity of computers, but virtualization is simply the process which, through the sharing of hardware, allows the user to run various operating systems on the same machine, whether it be a server or a desktop.


Figure 1. Example of how a virtual machine works

Each virtual machine created in this way is a complete operating environment, as safe and totally isolated as if it were an independent computer. In a virtualized environment, one single machine can store a diversity of operating systems, allowing a much more agile usage at a lower cost.


GISVM (Geographic Information System Virtual Machine) is a virtual machine created on the VMWare platform, based on the operating system Ubuntu Linux and it is a mix of the following ingredients: GIS, Free Software and Virtualization.


Figure 2. GISVM Desktop

It has been developed keeping in mind those who are taking their first steps in the GIS world. Apart from being practical, it allows you to use it wherever and however you want to, without complications, and it can be run even from a USB harddrive or pendrive.

It is a complete set of Open Source GIS applications, selected in such a way as to provide tools for the main needs of a GIS user. It can be easily adapted to meet one’s personal needs, allowing the user to add new data or applications.

In it you will find a very popular distribution of Linux, with several useful applications, including  Open Office, a relational database server (PostgreSQL) with spacial support (PostGIS) , two free map servers (GeoServer and MapServer), as well as net services and configurations that ease the data communication between the virtual machine and the physical machine in such a way that allows GISVM to function as a simple machine within your computer network.

GISVM is available in English and Portuguese in two versions: GISVM Server and GISVM Desktop. See below for the list of items installed in each version:

GISVM Desktop: GISVM Server:
  • S.O. Linux Ubuntu 8.04 Desktop
  • Samba
  • PostgreSQL/PostGIS
  • Java/Tomcat/GeoServer
  • Apache/PHP/MapServer
  • Quantum GIS
  • gvSIG
  • uDIG
  • FWTools: OpenEV, GDAL/OGR, Proj4, OGDI
  • OpenOffice
  • And all the applications included on standard Ubuntu instalation.
  • S.O. Linux Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition
  • Pacote LAMP Server (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP)
  • Samba
  • Tomcat Java Server
  • PostgreSQL/PostGIS, ZigGIS and FDO ready!
  • Mapserver
  • Geoserver
  • Deegree
  • Webmin

How to use

GISVM is a virtual computer which is run within your physical computer. To start using it you need to first install a programme which can run a virtual machine. For common use of GISVM, the VMWare Player, which is free and has versions in Windows and Linux, is recommended. To be able to use GISVM comfortably, some basic requirements must be met including having 5GB of free space on the hard drive, 1GB of Ram memory and having a Dual Core processor.

To use GISVM all it takes is a download from the official site (, and to expand the file in your chosen location. After having done that, you need to open the VMware Player and select the vmx extention file in the directory where it was expanded to.


Figura 3: GISVM running on Mac OS X

The advantages

a) Ready to use as it is a “computer” which has applications already installed, which reduces the amount of time wasted on installation and configuration.

b) Runs in any environment as it is based on Virtualization technology, i.e. it is multi-platform,  which means that it can be run on computers with different operating systems (Windows, Macintosh and Linux).

c) A complete pack which offers the user a complete range of SIG applications.

d) Flexible and adaptable to different situations and needs, as, apart from the tools it offers you can customize and adapt it.

One of the biggest sucess stories of GISVM  has been its adaptation to teaching environments. From GISVM, teachers have been adapting it to the needs of the class/content to be taught to students, by adding their data and exercises. Afterwards, in class, they share this new version with all the students, who then have acess to a ready-to-use learning environment, saving a lot of class time which would otherwise be used on irrelevant tasks.

The different between the Desktop and the Server editions

GISVM was initially made available only in its Desktop version, i.e, with a graphic interface to interact with the user. This version is more complete in terms of variety of GIS applications. In it you can find all kinds of applications, be it of visualization, editing, analyzing and publishing.

In the Server edition, only the interface of command lines is avaliable, with no graphic interface. In it you can find a greater number of server applications which function as services that are run in background. This version  fucntions as a SIG server in its network, ready to provide services. One of the main reasons for its launch was to allow it to be used in an interoperating way with any GIS Desktop application which you have installed on your computer or local network.


Figure 4: Quantum GIS and GISVM Server on Windows Vista

GISVM offers the user a lot more than the possibility of using or experimenting with an individual application. In it the user can enjoy a whole set of GIS solutions and services which can be used together, and in this way verify the true potential of FOSS4G (Free Open Source Software for GIS).

8 thoughts on “GISVM article at InfoGEO

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