What types of services can you publish?

A GIS server hosts GIS services. A GIS service represents a GIS resource—such as a map, globe, locator, or geodatabase connection—that is located on the server and is made available to client applications. Services make it easy to share the use of resources across clients. You can be sure that each client has the same view of the resource, and you save resources because the server is storing the resources and the clients don't need to have the GIS software installed. Instead, the server stores the resource, hosts the service, and does the GIS work, sending back a common format of result—such as images or text—to the client.

Working with services

You don't need any specialized GIS software to work with a service; you can consume the service within a Web browser or custom application. However, ArcGIS applications, such as ArcMap and ArcGlobe, can also act as clients to GIS services.

When you work with a service hosted by ArcGIS Server, you have, in most cases, the same level of access to the resource that you would have if the resource were located on your machine. A map service, for example, allows client applications to access the contents of a map document on the server in much the same way that they would if the map were stored locally.

Publishing a GIS resource as a service is the key to making that resource available to other people. As you deploy ArcGIS Server, you will follow the common pattern of creating resources in ArcGIS Desktop and publishing the resources as services so that client applications can use them.

This chart summarizes the services that are available and the GIS resource required for each one.

Service type

Required GIS resource

Map service

Map document (.mxd, .pmf) or map service definition (.msd)

Geocode service

Address locator (.loc, .mxs, SDE batch locator)

Geodata service

Database connection file (.sde) or personal geodatabase or file geodatabase or map document referencing data from a versioned geodatabase

Geometry service

Does not require a GIS resource

Geoprocessing service

Map document with a tool layer or toolbox (.tbx)

Globe service

Globe document (.3dd, .pmf)

Image service

Raster dataset or mosaic dataset or layer file referencing a raster dataset or mosaic dataset

Search service

Folders and geodatabases of GIS content that you want to search

Enabling capabilities

When you publish a GIS resource to the server, you can enable capabilities that define the various ways clients can use the service. For example, you might enable a geocoding capability to allow someone to find a place by its address. By enabling capabilities, you can provide the GIS functionality that the users of your applications will need.

As an ArcGIS Server administrator, your view of the server focuses on GIS resources and the services you create from them. However, a client's view of the server focuses more on the capabilities that you enabled when you published the resource, since that is what can be consumed. As an administrator, it's possible for you to publish one GIS resource and enable many capabilities for that resource. The person who uses these services will view these capabilities as separate services.

The capabilities that are available for a resource vary depending on what type of resource it is and, in the case of a map document, what layers are inside it. Map documents have the most available capabilities. Some, like WMS and KML, are always available. Others, such as Geodata Access and Geoprocessing, require special types of layers. This chart details the capabilities you can enable and the GIS resource required to expose each one.


What it does

Services that expose this capability

Feature Access

Provides access to vector features in a map.

Map services


Provides access to an address locator. This capability is always enabled when you publish a geocode service.

Geocode services


Provides access to the contents of a geodatabase for data query, extraction, and replication. This capability is always enabled when you publish a geodata service.

Geodata services

Geodata Access

Allows an end user to perform replication and data extraction in ArcMap. Enabling this capability while publishing a map document creates an associated geodata service.

Map services


Provides an engine internal to your applications for performing geometric calculations such as project and densify.

Geometry services


Provides access to geoprocessing models from either a toolbox or tool layer. A tool layer represents a model that has been added to a map document's table of contents. Enabling this capability while publishing a map document creates an associated geoprocessing service. This capability is always enabled when you publish a geoprocessing service.

Geoprocessing services, map services


Provides access to the contents of a globe document. This capability is always enabled when you publish a globe service.

Globe services


Provides access to the contents of a raster dataset or mosaic dataset, including pixel values, properties, metadata, and bands. This capability is always enabled when you publish an image service.

Image services


Provides JPIP streaming capability when using JPEG 2000 or NITF (with JPEG 2000 compression) files and configured with a JPIP Server from ITTVIS.

Image services


Uses a map document to create Keyhole Markup Language (KML) features.

Map services


Provides access to the contents of a map document. This capability is always enabled when you publish a map service.

Map services

Mobile Data Access

Allows extraction of data from a map document to a mobile device.

Map services

Network Analysis

Solves transportation network analysis problems using the Network Analyst extension.

Map services


Allows searching of folders and geodatabases shared across an enterprise

Search services


Creates a service compliant with the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC) Web Coverage Service (WCS) specification.

Geodata services, image services, map services


Creates a service compliant with the OGC Web Feature Service (WFS) specification.

Map services, geodata services


Creates a service compliant with the OGC Web Map Service (WMS) specification.

Image services, map services

It's important to know which capabilities are available and to choose the ones that will best meet your needs. The following examples may help get you thinking about which capabilities you should enable when you publish your GIS resources:

Making services available on the Web

When clients connect to the server, they can do so through a local or wide area network (LAN or WAN) or through the Internet. When clients connect to a GIS service through the Internet, they're accessing it as a Web service.

When you publish a service, it is automatically enabled for Web access and given an associated URL. The URL is used by ESRI applications to connect to the service when you use the ArcGIS Server Internet option. You cannot enter the URL in a browser directly; however, if you enter the URL in a browser and append ?wsdl, you can see the service's Web service definition and verify that the service is working correctly.

You can always disable Web access or set security parameters that limit who can access the service through the Internet.

Allowed operations

ArcGIS Server Web services have operations that define what users are allowed to do with the service. Each operation represents a group of related methods. When you disable an operation, you prevent clients from executing those methods. When you allow an operation, clients can call all the methods in that operation.

For example, map services have Map, Query, and Data as their allowed operations. The Identify tool uses a method in Query; therefore, if you didn't want clients to be able to use an Identify tool with a map service, you would disable Query. For each type of service, you can find a list of operations and their associated methods in Tuning and configuring services.

Messaging formats

ArcGIS Server Web services support both SOAP and binary messaging formats. SOAP is a common Web service messaging protocol. Binary is used by certain ArcGIS client applications, such as ArcMap and ArcGlobe, to view services. You set the messaging format at the root folder level of your server. Therefore, the format you choose applies to all other folders.

By default, both SOAP and binary are enabled. You can, however, choose to use just one of these formats. Be aware that if you choose just binary, standard Web clients will not be able to consume the service; only ArcGIS clients can use the binary messaging format.

Web service URLs

For clients to access Web services, they will need to know the URL. When you make an Internet connection to the server, you will use a URL in this format:

http://<server name>/<instance name>/services

To connect to a specific service, the URL takes a longer format:

http://<server name>/<instance name>/services/<folder name (if the service resides in a folder)>/<service name>/<service type (required for some services)>/<capability type (required for some services)>

For further instructions on the URL formats to use with your services, see the documentation topic specific to the type of service you are creating. To change the format of the URL, you can use URL mapping.

Capabilities that require Web access

Some capabilities require that clients access the service through the Internet; therefore, there is no option to disable Web access for these capabilities. The capabilities that require Web access are KML, WMS, and Mobile Data Access.