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ArcGIS Server web services

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.

Share secure services

When you add a secure ArcGIS Server service that is exposed externally as an item in Portal for ArcGIS, you choose whether or not to have the credentials stored with the service item. If the credentials are not stored, Portal for ArcGIS prompts you for the credentials every time you access the service. If the credentials are stored with the service item, you won't be prompted. If you want to change credentials after adding the item, you can edit the item details and enter a different user name or password. Storing credentials with the item is only supported for token-based services.

User names might be case sensitive depending on how your identity systems are managed.


When you store your credentials for a secure service, the item behaves like a proxy in that all requests to the service go through Portal for ArcGIS. This proxy adds some delay when accessing the service and is slower than going directly to the service.

Limit usage of your shared service item

If you want to share your secure service item with the public, for example, as part of a public web app, store the credentials with the item so the public is not required to log in to get to your app. You may also want to limit usage to control how many times and by whom the service is accessed. You can specify the rate limit, and to further restrict usage, designate the specific referrer URLs or IPs that can access your service, for example, the URL of your portal.

To limit usage, follow these steps:

  1. Add your secure service as an item to My Content.
  2. As part of adding your item, in the Add Item pop-up, choose Store credentials with service item.
  3. On the item details page, within the Advanced Options section, click Limit Usage.
  4. Check Enable rate limiting and set up the limits—a maximum number of requests allowed for a specific period of time or the referrer URLs and IPs that can access your service, for example, the URL to your portal. You can also limit both the rate and the referrer.

    Your referrer URLs and IPs can be fully qualified URLs, wildcards to include all subdomains (http://*, or the IP address ( You need to specify ports and add both http and https if you want to allow access to both. For sharing services within apps hosted in your portal, you can provide either the URL to your app, or if you plan to have multiple apps that use the service, specify the URL to the portal's app directory instead (for example,

  5. Click OK.
  6. Share the item with others intended to have access to it—everyone (public), your organization, or specific groups you belong to.

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 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 layer

Scene services 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 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.