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What is ArcGIS Server?

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 GIS services, which allow a 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 organization in which ArcGIS Server is federated with an ArcGIS Enterprise portal. This is the pattern that most users should use. In this pattern, your geographic data is made available through layers and web maps in the organization. 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.

Learn more about integrating ArcGIS Server with ArcGIS Enterprise

The other way is as a stand-alone pattern in which ArcGIS Server is not federated with an ArcGIS Enterprise portal. This was a common pattern in previous releases. This type of pattern 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 pattern can migrate to a federated ArcGIS Enterprise pattern. 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, so you can add multiple machines if additional processing power is needed.

Review the system requirements for ArcGIS Server

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 installed 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 Pro installed on at least one computer in your organization to publish GIS services. This computer does not have to be the server.

Publish services

Services can be published to ArcGIS Enterprise in three ways:

  • You share a web map, web layer, or other item from ArcGIS Pro to your ArcGIS Enterprise portal. As part of the sharing process, one or more GIS services are published to a federated ArcGIS Server site.
  • You publish a GIS service directly from ArcGIS Pro to a stand-alone ArcGIS Server site (one that isn't federated with a portal).
  • You upload a file, such as a CSV file or a zipped shapefile, into your portal and choose to publish a hosted feature layer.

When you share an item, such as a web map, mosaic dataset, or geoprocessing tool, from ArcGIS Pro to ArcGIS Enterprise, a wizard walks you through the process. The program 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.

Learn about the types of services you can publish to ArcGIS Enterprise

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.

Migrate services to the ArcGIS Pro service runtime

Beginning with 11.0, it is no longer possible to publish services from ArcMap (including ArcPy based in ArcMap) to ArcGIS Server sites. Instead, services can be published from ArcGIS Pro.

Some services published from ArcMap will no longer be able to run if present during an upgrade. While many services that were originally published from ArcMap will continue to run on future releases, some specific service types must be reauthored and republished. This includes geoprocessing services and services that make use of SOEs or SOIs.

Learn how to migrate services to the ArcGIS Pro service runtime

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. No additional software is required to run an SOE or an SOI on ArcGIS Server.

SOEs and SOIs can be developed using ArcGIS Enterprise SDK, which offers tools, documentation, and samples for both .NET and Java.

  • You can use the ArcGIS Enterprise SDK to develop SOEs to extend map services and develop SOIs to customize the capabilities of map and image services (including feature services and OGC-compliant services). When using this SDK, if you want to write custom ArcGIS Server Manager property pages for your extensions beyond those that are automatically generated, you must have knowledge of Web Forms development using HTML and JavaScript.

To learn more about developing SOEs and SOIs, see Introduction to extending services.

Use services

Once you have GIS 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.
  • The ArcGIS Maps SDK for JavaScript, ArcGIS API for Python, and the ArcGIS Runtime SDKs allow you to develop custom apps that use your GIS services in an interface that you design.
  • ArcGIS Pro can use GIS services published by ArcGIS Server. To begin, click the Add Data button in ArcGIS Pro.
  • Any other app that can make a REST API 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 must 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 ArcGIS Server 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.