ArcGIS Server is a back-end server software component of ArcGIS Enterprise that makes your geographic information available to others in your organization and, optionally, anyone with an Internet connection. This is accomplished through web services, which allow a powerful server computer to receive and process requests for information sent by other devices.
To get started with ArcGIS Server, you’ll need to prepare your hardware, software, and data before you can begin publishing services. Then, you can use various types of applications to consume your services.
Configurations for ArcGIS Server
ArcGIS Server can be used in two ways. The primary way is as part of an ArcGIS Enterprise deployment in which ArcGIS Server is federated with an ArcGIS Enterprise portal. This is the deployment that most users should use. In this deployment, your geographic data is made available through layers and web maps in the portal. Those items can then be consumed in a variety of apps, including browser-based web apps and native apps on mobile devices, with little to no custom development required.
The other way is as a stand-alone deployment in which ArcGIS Server is not federated with an ArcGIS Enterprise portal. This was a common deployment in previous releases. This type of deployment should now only be used in limited circumstances. Stand-alone sites commonly use ArcGIS Server to provide foundational content and services as a data provider, with little to no security controls on the services. This allows users to provide their own apps to interact with the content. Users will typically have ArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online to use the data in the various applications.
ArcGIS Server sites using the stand-alone deployment can migrate to a federated ArcGIS Enterprise deployment. For complete information, see Migrating standalone ArcGIS Server to ArcGIS Enterprise.
Prepare hardware, software, and data
ArcGIS Server requires a machine capable of running a 64-bit operating system. The ArcGIS Server architecture is scalable, meaning you can add multiple machines if additional processing power is needed.
Depending on organizational requirements, you may need the help of your IT staff to allow your server to be accessed over the Internet. When planning your hardware and environment, remember that ArcGIS Server can also be deployed on virtual machines or commercial cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Once you install ArcGIS Server, you can use it right away, or you can integrate it with your organization’s existing web server by installing ArcGIS Web Adaptor. You also need to have ArcGIS Desktop installed on at least one computer in your organization in order to publish GIS web services. This computer does not have to be the server.
If you’ve worked with ArcGIS Desktop, you know how to view and analyze GIS data. You use the same applications when publishing web services to ArcGIS Server. You can author maps, geoprocessing models, mosaic datasets, and other GIS resources in ArcGIS Desktop and use a wizard to share them as web services.
As part of the sharing process, ArcGIS alerts you to potential performance issues in the resource you are publishing. It also searches its list of registered data locations to find paths that need to be fixed after your resource is moved to the server.
If you don’t want to publish right away (for example, if you don’t have immediate access to the server machine), you can save a service definition file and publish it later. The service definition includes all the data paths and properties necessary to publish the service at another time. You can also choose to include all the source data, allowing you to package the service into one transferrable file.
During the publishing process, you'll enable capabilities that define the various ways your audience can use the service. For example, Feature Access is a capability that allows web users to edit vector features in a map service. Another example of a capability is WMS, which exposes your service through the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Map Service (WMS) specifications.
Extend a service
If you find that your map or image service does not offer the functionality or business logic that you need, you can extend its base functionality with server object extensions (SOEs), or build custom operating logic with server object interceptors (SOIs).
These are advanced options and require custom development, but they can be deployed to the server or shared with others. No additional software is required to run an SOE or an SOI on ArcGIS Server.
SOEs and SOIs can be developed using Esri SDKs. Each offers tools, documentation, and samples for both .NET and Java.
To learn more about developing SOEs and SOIs, see Introduction to extending services.
Once you have web services running, you can use them in any app, device, or API that can communicate through HTTP. The following are examples:
- In ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise you can create and save maps and apps that display your services. You can use services that you publish, or add services from the web.
- When you share a map from ArcGIS Pro to your ArcGIS Enterprise portal as a web map, each layer in the map will be published to a federated ArcGIS Server site as a service.
- ArcGIS Desktop applications, such as ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro, use web services published by ArcGIS Server. Using a service in these applications often only entails clicking the Add Data button.
- Any other app that can make a SOAP or REST web service request can connect to ArcGIS Server. Supported clients range from smartphone and tablet apps that find the nearest grocery store to enterprise desktop applications for customer management or resource planning.
Maintain your server
As you work with your server over time, you’ll need to adjust settings, add and remove services, and set up security rules. ArcGIS Server Manager is a web application included with ArcGIS Server that provides an intuitive point-and-click interface for administering the server. You can use Manager to view the server logs, stop and start services, publish service definitions, define users and roles for security, and perform other similar tasks.
You may also want to perform server administration tasks automatically through scripting. ArcGIS Server has a REST administrator API that allows you to automate server management tasks using the scripting language of your choice. For example, you can write a Python script that checks the health of your services periodically and sends you an email if a service is detected to be down. This help system contains various server administration scripting examples.