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What is a network dataset?

Release 9.2
Last modified August 15, 2007
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Networks used by ArcGIS Network Analyst are stored as network datasets. A network dataset is created from the feature source or sources that participate in the network. It incorporates an advanced connectivity model that can represent complex scenarios, such as multimodal transportation networks. It also possesses a rich network attribute model that helps model impedances, restrictions, and hierarchy for the network. The network dataset is built from simple features (lines and points) and turns. The following is an example of a transportation network in downtown Paris displaying road, rail, and bus networks.

Transportation Network for downtown Paris

In ARC/INFO, coverages were used to create networks on the fly. In ArcView GIS, a persistent network was created when a network analysis function was run on a line shapefile for the first time. In ArcGIS, the network dataset stores this persistent network. You can save this network, modify its properties, and model a variety of networks using network datasets.
There are numerous options available when creating a network dataset. A network dataset can be built from feature classes in a feature dataset of a personal or enterprise geodatabase. Since a feature dataset can store multiple feature classes, the network dataset can support multiple sources and model a multimodal network.
The shapefile-based network dataset provides ArcView GIS users the opportunity for rapid migration of their data. The shapefile network dataset is created from a polyline shapefile containing the network source (for instance, a street network) and, optionally, a shapefile turn feature class. Such a network dataset cannot support multiple edge sources and cannot be used to model multimodal networks.
ArcGIS Network Analyst can read SDC network datasets. This allows you to perform network analysis on vendor-supplied SDC data, without having to create your own network dataset.

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