A quick tour of Web maps and GIS services

Like all Web services, GIS services are built to perform a focused set of GIS functions and utilize open Web protocols, such as XML, SOAP, and REST Web services, and HTML.

There are a number of types of GIS services:

GIS Web map services have some important characteristics that influence how they are used. Perhaps the most interesting is that they are georeferenced, which means that you can readily combine GIS services from many servers across the Web.

ArcMap, ArcScene, and ArcGlobe support a range of map services.

Services from ArcGIS Server

ArcMap, ArcScene, and ArcGlobe support the GIS services in the table below. Geographic information types (such as map documents) that you create using ArcGIS can be published and used as GIS Web services.

ArcGIS services published using ArcGIS Server

Service type

Required GIS resource

Map service

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

Geocode service

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

Geodata service

Map service definition (.msd) or 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 layer file referencing a raster dataset or mosaic dataset or compiled image service definition (.ISCDef)

Search service

Folders and geodatabases of GIS content that you want to search

Services published using ArcGIS Server

ArcIMS services

ArcIMS was ESRI's first GIS server product and is deployed in many organizations. ArcIMS services can be used in ArcGIS. ArcIMS services include the following:

Open Geospatial Consortium services

Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC), provides a series of Web service standards used by the geospatial community for GIS services, including Web Map Service (WMS), Web Feature Service (WFS), and Web Coverage Service (WCS). You can read more about accessing and using OGC Web services at Adding WMS to ArcMap.

Web maps

ArcGIS Web maps are composed of a set of one or more Web map services. They are created and shared at ArcGIS.com. Web maps can be opened and used in any ArcGIS client—ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Explorer Online, iPhone, and Web browsers. If you have a Web connection, you can use ArcGIS Web maps. They enable you to use ArcGIS without any software.

Creating a web map at ArcGIS.com
A layer of recent earthquakes is combined with the World Topographic basemap to create an ArcGIS Web map.

ArcGIS online

ArcGIS online refers to the online capabilities of the complete ArcGIS system. It is the mechanism in which any ArcGIS client can connect to the web, search for, and access shared GIS content. ArcGIS users share rich ArcGIS map and layer packages, Web maps and apps, and ArcGIS services that you can access and use. ESRI also shares a number of GIS maps and content, including online maps, globes, and layers.

In addition, users can set up and join groups for sharing and collaboration across a community.

See Using ArcGIS online for more information.

KML services

Keyhole Markup Language (KML) is an XML-based language provided by Google for defining the graphic display of spatial data in applications such as Google Earth and Google Maps. ArcGIS users can publish their map and globe services as KML using ArcGIS Server.

In addition, applications such as ArcGIS Explorer and ArcGlobe can directly use KML and KML Web services.

See Using KML in ArcGIS.

Bing Maps and services

As an ArcGIS Desktop user, you can sign up to access and use Bing Maps street maps and imagery in ArcMap and ArcGlobe.

See Using Bing Maps.

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