Either this is a gap in the documentation or I'm really missing something!

I know that I can direct connect to an SDE GeoDatabase without needing ArcSDE to be installed on the database server, but I can't figure out how I'm supposed to create a GeoDatabase or convert an existing schema to a GeoDatabase without going through the ArcSDE installation process.

I'm using ArcGIS Server 10 which is installed on a web server. I don't have sufficient licensing to install ArcSDE on a separate server but the license does allow me to direct connect to a GeoDatabase on a separate machine.

Is the conversion accomplished through the ArcGIS Server post-install? I started testing but I don't currently have the existing SOM and SOC service passwords so I don't want to change them in the post-install and break something. I can't get to where I think the database configuration stuff is withouth setting these accounts.

Is this something I would do through ArcCatalog? I can't see the relevant option.

3 Answers 3


It all depends on the license level of your ArcGIS server.

From: Types of geodatabases

ArcGIS Server Workgroup also includes ArcSDE support for SQL Server Express. With this level of ArcSDE, you can use SQL Server Express for up to 10 simultaneous Windows desktop users and editors (users of ArcView, ArcEditor, ArcInfo, a custom ArcGIS Engine application, AutoCAD, MicroStation, and so on) plus any number of additional server connections from Web applications. (Consult your license agreement for specific information on the number of connections for your implementation.)

For ArcGIS Server Workgroup, you can use ArcEditor or ArcInfo to create, administer, and manage ArcSDE geodatabases for SQL Server Express within ArcCatalog or the Catalog window. No extra database administration expertise is required.

ArcGIS Server Enterprise includes full enterprise ArcSDE technology with no limits. You can still run the traditional ArcSDE technology for Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, IBM DB2, and IBM Informix. ArcSDE support at the enterprise server level can scale to databases of any size and number of users and runs on computers of any size and configuration. With ArcGIS Server Enterprise, you provide your own DBMS license for this level of ArcSDE use.

So it all depends on your license level. If You have a Workgroup license, you'll have to use ArcGIS desktop to create and administer the ArcSDE geodatabase.

If you have an Enterprise License, you'll have to follow the steps given in this article A quick tour of setting up a geodatabase in Oracle

  • I appreciate your input, but I think you've kind of skirted the question. I don't want to install ArcSDE, which is the process described in your link (I have an enterprise license). I just want to use the in-built (e.g. Direct Connect) capabilities of ArcGIS Server to configure an Oracle schema and convert it to a GeoDatabase.
    – tomfumb
    Sep 21, 2012 at 16:34
  • At ArcGIS 10, I don't think there's any way to create an SDE schema except with the ArcSDE sdesetup program. 10.1 lets you do it with geoprocessing tasks from ArcMap.
    – mwalker
    Sep 21, 2012 at 20:32
  • 1
    @tomfumb If you have an Enterprise license, you no option but to create the SDE schema. The direct connect is just a way of connecting to the schema. Without the schema, a client won't be able to access the appropriate tables, and update them. ArcGIS Server doesn't have the capabilities to configure an Oracle schema and convert it to a GeoDatabase. Sep 22, 2012 at 14:39

If you're using Windows, there's an ArcSDE Service post install that can create the necessary SDE schema objects in your database. You will need to have ArcSDE installed somewhere, and a suitable license to deploy to the SDE schema. You don't need to create / run an ArcSDE service, though.

You can also manually create the schema:


Once you have an SDE schema and license, you may connect to the geodatabase from a computer that has the Oracle client by using the following connection properties in ArcCatalog or ArcMap:

Host: <database server>
Port: sde:oracle10g
User: <database user>
Pass: <database password>@<Oracle SID>

I think the ArcSDE installer should be packaged on the same media where you got the ArcGIS Server installer from.

  • great thanks this is really what I was after. One issue: my install DVD's esri.exe doesn't show any SDE options on the splash screen. Would I have to dig through the contents, or should it be really obvious? Are there different versions of the AGS DVD that do / don't include SDE?
    – tomfumb
    Sep 22, 2012 at 0:24
  • Can't help you there - we get the "everything you could ever need" license here so I've never been in that situation. You're looking for the "sdesetup.exe" program specifically.
    – mwalker
    Sep 24, 2012 at 15:35

As is sometimes the case when I got all the information I needed my question wasn't quite valid anymore, so here is the end result:

It looks like I don't need to GeoDatabase-ise my Oracle schema at all, but can simply direct connect to Oracle without any ESRI configuration on the database.

I previously thought I had to perform some configuration in the schema before I could direct connect to it, but apparently not.

EDIT The above is based on a conversation I had with someone at ESRI (Redlands). It is not true. I finally found a statement buried in some 9.3 documentation that ArcSDE has to be installed (though the giomgr services doesn't have to be) for Direct Connect to work. I don't think this has changed for 10.0.

Looks like I'll have to go to 10.1 and use the ArcCatalog approach.

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