This fact-sheet is from April 2011 and outdated. Help us to update it!
What is a BIMserver?
The BIMserver is not hardware, there is no specific computer anywhere that you use. The open source BIMserver is software. You can download this software at no cost and install it on any computer. After installation, this computer (laptop, PC, rack server) is a BIMserver. So ‘the’ BIMserver does not actually exist, but it is the software you can use to create ‘a’ BIMserver.
OK, but what is that software?
This software enables you to create a server that can work with IFC data. You can upload IFC data to the server, usually in the form of IFC files. The software analyses the data in the files and places this in an underlying database. The core of the BIMserver software ‘understands’ the IFC structure and this creates a software tool that can support users working with BIM models in IFC.
Currently, IFC is the most widely used and most mature open standard for BIM models. There are other closed standards that are perhaps used more frequently, but these are not supported to minimise dependency on commercial software resellers. Besides IFC, the BIMserver software can also work with other open standards for BIM, but more about that later.
What can this software / my BIMserver actually do?
The BIMserver software offers a wealth of functionality. It is up to the user to decide which features to use. Just to mention a few options; the BIMserver enables a project to be divided into subprojects. Each discipline or part of the building can then have its own project with its own users and authorisations. But because the BIMserver understands the structure of IFC data, all underlying subprojects are always neatly converged into the master project. IFC data managed by different disciplines is merged immediately after every change. After changes have been applied, the software can detect changes in IFC data and it can manage revisions and different versions. The ‘checkout’ function keeps track of who is working on which parts of the model. If, in the meantime, someone else uploads a change to the server, the warning bells will start to ring automatically. So, you see, it supports concurrent engineering.
Is that all?
Another popular feature is clash detection on the (merged) IFC data and the option to ‘subscribe’ to changes in (part of) the model.
The more technical users are enthusiastic about the Query and filter options for the IFC data. Simple pre-programmed queries such as ‘give me the 2nd floor only’ or ‘give me all the windows’ are widely used.
The nerds among us consider the various interfaces (JSON, SOAP, etc..) and working with an EMF framework wonderful.
Who does the BIMserver belong to?
Like every open source project, the source code supplier (the programmer, or his/her employer) is and remains the owner of its own code. Everyone who supplies code remains the owner of their own bit of code.
The source code that forms the core of the BIMserver was written by Jakob Beetz and is owned by the Eindhoven University of Technology. The underlying database used is a BerkeleyDB which is owned by Oracle. The majority of the BIMserver source code was written by the Netherlands organisation for applied Scientific Research TNO.
Is the bimserver.org software really free?
Who is funding the continuing development of the BIMserver?
There is no structural financing. Developments are ad-hoc and in the margins of mostly research projects. Therefore, there is no roadmap or planning. Structural financing will be required to make considerable progress.
Does the bimserver.org software meet all standards?
The BIMserver software conforms fully to IFC and IFC related standards like COBie, ifcXML, etc.
But in the end the serializers are a plugins for BIMserver and anyone can write their own import/export serializer. There are know serializers for WebGL (BIM Surfer), Collada, CityGML, etc…
Why doesn’t the BIMserver software have IFC certification?
The IFC certification procedure focuses mainly on the correct interpretation and creation of the geometry. Other BIM software has to interpret the IFC geometry into its own internal structure. The certification checks whether this takes place correctly. The BIMserver stores all data in IFC without interpretation or conversion to another or its own internal structure. The current certification procedure is therefore not suitable for the BIMserver.
However, the BIMserver input and output is 100% valid IFC. The development team is proud of this and is highly motivated to keep it this way. The user group (including major IFC managers) monitors this closely.
Who can I contact if something goes wrong or if there is something I don’t understand?
This is a standard question in every open source project. And the answer is also the same as for most open source projects. There is a support forum on http://support.opensourcebim.org
There are also an increasing number of companies (and small organisations) offering services based on the software. For example, they offer hosting facilities for a BIMserver, including backups, updates, etc. and all this with the certainty of a fast connection, sufficient memory and often even with the guarantee that bugs will be solved. You can engage one of these companies, and therefore call them should you have any problems. You are not committed to any one software supplier, but you can select the party that suits you best.
Does the BIMserver also work on Apple?
The BIMserver software is written in Java and is platform independent. This means that the BIMserver software can be installed on all systems where Java runs, in practice that is all systems. However, this is not very interesting for the average end user who only wants to connect to a BIMserver via a web browser. So, to answer the question: Yes, it runs on Windows, Apple, Unix, Linux, etc..
What does the system architecture look like (for the nerds)?
Well, it’s very ingenious. It uses a ‘model driven architecture’ approach. The software reads the IFC schema (.exp files), and from this it reads all the IFC object classes and properties. This structure is placed in an EMF (e-core) model. This EMF model is the core of the BIMserver software. This is used to generate Java objects and the SOAP Interface. This approach means that the BIMserver source code contains application logic which will please every application developer.
This application logic is also used to generate a database. Because IFC has a network structure, a key-value-store database was chosen, and the Oracle BerkeleyDB database is used. This database processes transactions very quickly and is exactly what the BIMserver needs. There are some generic interfaces between the EMF model and the Berkeley database that also enable other databases to be used for storage.
Various internet interfaces are generated at the top of the EMF model, including several interfaces and protocols (SOAP, JSON, etc).