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Interoperability and standards support

Overview of interoperability

Release 9.3
Last modified October 13, 2010
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The ArcGIS platform conforms to open standards and enterprise IT frameworks. This ensures that users can incorporate GIS in any application, on a variety of computing and mobile devices, and can use geographic information accessed from multiple databases and Web services. While geodatabase management is recommended, ArcGIS allows geographic data to be persisted and managed in almost any format. It also enables ArcGIS users to work with and integrate their information with other systems in a heterogeneous computing framework.

Services Oriented Architectures

One trend is the integration of GIS with other applications (both GIS and other IT systems) using Services-Oriented Architectures (SOA). SOA's can be used to integrate existing information systems to orchestrate work across those systems. This is used to implement critical business practices, work flows, and information flows within and across organizations.

For example, a utility could assemble a trouble call system that integrates its existing customer database application, its command and control system, and its fleet management system with a GIS server to locate and respond to affected customers. The information flow for an incident might start with the customer's phone number. The system could then locate the affected service, perform network tracing and analysis, identify the potential remedy and, finally, route the closest field service technician to the service location with detailed instructions on the work to be performed.

Using a SOA, ArcGIS and other systems are fused using IT and Web services interfaces for managing and exploiting information and software logic. ArcGIS can be integrated with other IT services using a standards-based Web services and messaging protocols, such as XML and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). These are the same technology standards that are used in mainstream business and enterprise computing frameworks.

Web GIS and GeoExplorers

Another trend is the use of 2D and 3D geo-visualization applications on the web. Examples such as Google Earth and Microsoft's Virtual Earth provide ready-to-use, multi-resolution global basemaps with high performance and ease-of-use. Many ArcGIS users want to leverage Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth in their daily work. They value the ability to use the Google Earth and Virtual Earth map services as digital basemaps onto which they can layer their operational GIS information and tasks.

ArcGIS users can leverage these frameworks as clients to their GIS information using protocols such as the Google Earth™ KML format and the open JavaScript™ and REST™ API's for programming custom web applications.

Data Interoperability in ArcGIS

GIS and geospatial data come in hundreds of file formats and from many organizations worldwide. Hence, it's important that ArcGIS support many of these formats directly using out-of-the box tools and format convertors. For example, data files based on these non-native formats will appear in ArcCatalog, allowing you to add the data to ArcMap as a layer and use the data in geoprocessing. You can read more about data support at An overview of data support in ArcGIS.

ArcGIS contains optional software that can extend this support for working with many more GIS data formats. ESRI and Safe Software, who is the world leader in geospatial data interoperability, have integrated the popular Safe Software FME product into ArcGIS as an optional extension product named the Data Interoperability Extension. This enables ArcGIS to recognize dozens of additional non-native formats and allows you to work with them directly, just as you would work with native ArcGIS formats. The Data Interoperability Extension also gives you the ability to define new custom data sources and to define data transformation procedures that help you perform advanced data transformations between a variety of GIS and tabular data structures.

ArcGIS is engineered for interoperability

ArcGIS supports the vision that GIS can be implemented in a manner that readily supports an organization's work flows and business requirements. ArcGIS provides this via a standards-based software platform that supports an abundance of geographic information types as well as comprehensive tools for data management, editing, analysis, display, and services.

In this context, ArcGIS software is used as a standards-based IT infrastructure for assembling desktop GIS, enterprise GIS, web GIS, mobile GIS, and spatial data infrastructures.

ArcGIS was designed to satisfy all of these evolving requirements for scalable, comprehensive, and standards-based computing for GIS.

Overview of key interoperability strategies
Topic Strategy

  • Support any client and device including mobile, smart clients, web browsers, geo-explorer applications, desktop applications, and other servers
Leverage web mapping and visualization using ArcGIS Explorer, Google Earth, and Microsoft Virtual Earth
  • Provide a free, out-of-the-box geo-explorer application named ArcGIS Explorer that enables ArcGIS Server users to publish their own digital 3D worlds
  • Enable ArcGIS users to leverage 2D and 3D map explorer applications such as Google Earth and Microsoft's Virtual Earth
  • Support the Google Earth KML format
    • Generate KML in ArcGIS
    • Read KML in ArcGIS Explorer and ArcGlobe
    • Serve KML dynamically using ArcGIS Server

  • Support a REST Java Script programming model for building custom web applications and mashups between ArcGIS and other map services
Orchestrate via web services, web applications, and TCP/IP

  • Support broad web and IT standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and others -- for example, XML, web services, SOAP, WSDL, REST, JavaScript, etc.
  • Support services oriented architectures (GIS on the enterprise service bus)
  • Support focused GIS industry standards (such as OGC and ISO). For example, ISO 19139 metadata and OGC specifications WMS (including SLD), WFS, WCS, GML, CSW, etc.
  • Support KML services for publishing GIS services as KML and for using KML within ArcGIS.
  • Share and openly publish ESRI protocols for broad use (e.g., shape files, geodatabase XML, REST API's, AJAX, SOAP XML API's).
  • Deliver a GIS portal toolkit for central metadata and application publishing
  • Support portal standards (e.g., JSR-168, UDDI, CSW from OGC, Web portal frameworks, API's -- .NET, Java)
Application logic

  • Enable common GIS logic to be deployed anywhere - within GIS Servers, embedded in custom applications, used within GIS desktops, and deployed into the field on mobile devices.
  • Build application bridges for specific programs (SAP R3, SAS, CRM, permitting, GPS, surveying, GeoRSS, etc.)
Data management

  • Directly use as well as translate any vector, raster, and tabular data format.
  • Strong support for CAD interoperability
  • Open support for OGC data management specifications such as GML, WCS, WFS, etc.
  • Openly support geodatabase management in any viable RDBMS and file system:
    • Oracle
    • SQL Server
    • Informix
    • DB2
    • PostgreSQL

  • Support SQL access to geodatabases
  • Publish key GIS formats from ESRI as developer API's
  • Compile and share common GIS data models based on standards

Applications programming Provide industry-standard programming API's (C++, .NET, Java, etc.) for
  • Embedded engines
  • Servers
  • GIS desktops
  • Web browser clients
  • Mobile clients

Computing platforms Support the widely adopted computing platforms employed in our user communities. This includes support for web servlet engines, DBMS's, application servers, and web portal frameworks:
  • Windows: .NET, SQL Server, IIS, etc.
  • Linux/Unix: Java, Apache, WebSphere, WebLogic, Oracle Application Server, SAP NetWeaver, etc.
  • Sun Solaris: Java, Apache, SunONE
  • DBMS's for Linux/Unix: Oracle, Informix, DB2, PostgreSQL

  • Support and leverage standards such as Adobe Acrobat, Postscript, PDF, and other prepress-related standards
  • Support industry standard fonts

International language support
  • Provide the ability to use and deploy ESRI software in any language
  • Provide support for bi-directional text
  • Support standards for Internationalization (I18N) and Localization (L10N) such as UNICODE and numerous tools for adding language support
  • Provide localization kits with instructions for translating ESRI software

Accessibility standards
  • Provide support for common disability and accessibility standards such as the U.S. Government's Section 508 standards

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