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ArcGIS Server web services

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An ArcGIS Server web service represents a GIS resource—such as a map, locator, or image—that is located on an ArcGIS Server site and is made available to client applications.

Work with ArcGIS Server web 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 web services, and you can write your own apps to consume web 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 on the server in much the same way that they would if the map was stored locally.

Publishing a GIS resource as a service is the key to making that resource available to other people. When you deploy ArcGIS Server, you create resources in ArcGIS for Desktop and publish the resources as services so that client applications can use them.

You can use certain types of ArcGIS Server web services in maps in your portal. You can add these same types of web services plus additional web service types as items in your portal and share them with members of your organization. This allows members of your organization to consume these web services in client applications.

Layers and services in your organization

You can add the following ArcGIS Server web services to your organization as items in My Content. Share the items to make them easier for your portal members to find and use in client applications.

  • Feature services (map services with feature access enabled)
  • Geocoding services
  • Geodatabase services
  • Geometry services
  • Geoprocessing services
  • Image services
  • Map services (including map services with WMS enabled)
  • Network analysis services

You can add some ArcGIS Server web services to the map viewer on your portal. Because they can be used in maps, they are classified as layers in Portal for ArcGIS. The following table shows Portal for ArcGIS layer types and their corresponding ArcGIS Server web service types. For an explanation of each layer type, see the sections below the table.

Portal for ArcGIS layerArcGIS Server web service

Feature layer

Feature service (map service with feature access enabled)

Stream service


Stream service layers cannot be viewed in Internet Explorer 8 or 9 in the map viewer.

Imagery layer

Image service (cached and dynamic)

Elevation layer

Image service (cached, type LERC)

Map image layer

Map service

Scene service

Scene layers cannot be published directly to ArcGIS Server; they are hosted layers only.

WMTS layer

WMTS service (map service with WMTS enabled)

Feature layers

A feature layer is a collection of geographic features. Each feature in the collection has a location, set of properties, map symbology, and pop-up. Feature layers allow you to execute queries on the features and perform live edits on the features using templates for an enhanced editing experience. A feature layer can be managed as a part of your content or referenced in a map or app. The contents of some feature layers can be downloaded.

Streaming features

If you have ArcGIS GeoEvent Extension for Server, you can create stream services from ArcGIS GeoEvent Manager. Stream services allow you to connect to data sensors to display real-time, streaming data in your GIS clients.

You can add stream services to your portal content as feature layers and use these real-time data feeds as layers in maps or applications. A feature layer created from an ArcGIS Server stream service makes a persistent connection to the service, and data updates are pushed to the layer as they occur. They are useful for visualizing real-time data feeds that have high volumes of data or that have data that changes at unknown intervals. For example, weather warnings can be issued or updated at any time, and seeing new ones or updates as quickly as possible is important.

Streaming feature layers connect to an ArcGIS Server stream service using HTML5 WebSockets. WebSockets are a new feature of HTML5. Most modern browsers support WebSockets, however, they are not supported by all versions of browsers, such as Internet Explorer 8 or 9. To get more information about WebSockets and to test if a browser supports WebSockets, visit

Map image, elevation, and imagery layers

Map image, imagery, and elevation layers are prerendered collections of map cartography organized by location and scale. Imagery and map image layers can be displayed dynamically or as cached image tiles. Elevation layers use cached services.

Dynamic layers generate images when requested by the client viewing the layer. As you browse the map, new map images are generated and displayed. Dynamic map layers include map services and image services. Map services are based on vector data, which are typically a combination of points, lines, and polygons of geographic features. One common use of a map service is to show business data on top of a basemap tileset. Image services are based on raster data, which is essentially a grid of cells. Rasters are commonly used to store imagery and other information captured by satellite sensors.

Cached layers are organized collections of image tiles for specific geographic extents, projections, and levels of detail that are pregenerated on a server. Cached map layers include map services and image services. Cached layers support fast visualization of complex maps, since the server distributes the images whenever someone asks for a map. These map layers are created and stored on the server after you upload your data. They are appropriate for basemaps that give your maps geographic context.

Scene layers

Scene layers allow you to display 3D data. When you publish 3D data from ArcGIS Pro, a hosted feature layer and a hosted scene layer are created on your portal. The portal you publish to must use ArcGIS Data Store. The data for the feature layer and the cache for the scene layer are stored in ArcGIS Data Store.