I understand that in order to benefit from ArcGIS spatial datatypes (ST_GEOMETRY, versioned geodatabases etc.) ArcSDE needs to be installed - and with the 10.1 client it is automatically installed (two-tier client>>DBMS, see here.

However, I'm still trying to figure out the benefits of connecting an Esri front end to PostgreSQL (or Oracle). Is it purely back-end benefits, such as scalability /performance / redundancy / DBAability, or are there any extra front-end features offered by a PostgreSQL / PostGIS setup? The Esri help does not seem to elaborate

FYI, I'm pretty much a database newbie who is designing a GIS dissertation aimed at illustrating why Postgresql / PostGIS / QGIS is more scalable / flexible (and cheaper) than ArcGIS / any database, so must also consider above scenario, which I can't afford to implement. Any links on this last point, especially regarding workflow (e.g. not having loads of shapefiles cluttering everything up) most welcome. d.

2 Answers 2


Storing your data in a Spatial Database has several benefits over storing it in ArcSDE Geodatabase with a RDBMS Backend.
These include:

  • Your data can be accessed by other third party products freely.
  • Your DBA is happier with it being a Pure Database storage, since they can apply all their normal DBA best practices on the database.
  • You can apply Spatial SQL queries on the data from whichever client you wish. This can often be much more powerful than the Analysis that can be done in ArcGIS Desktop.

By doing things this way, you will not have access to many of ArcGIS Geodatabase functionality, like versioning, datasets, Network datasets, Geometric networks and so on.

A compromise, might be to have a ArcSDE geodatabase, and store spatial data in the native geometry/Geography type of the database. This can be done by using the appropriate config keyword while creating and loading data.

  • could you elaborate on the compromise. What are the benefits? Is there ever any reason to store PostGIS datatypes in your Postgre server, AND connect ArcSDE clients. I'm assuming (we know what that did!) the ArcMap tools cannot work directly with PostGIS datatypes. Why not just skip ArcGIS, and use QGIS? May 20, 2013 at 17:00
  • 1
    These two questions should explain the 'compromise' gis.stackexchange.com/questions/132/… gis.stackexchange.com/questions/2930/… As to whether you can use QGIS directly with PostGIS, Ya sure you can do that. But you will miss out on advance Geodatabase concepts like Versioning, replication, domains, subtypes, network/geometric datasets etc. Whether you need them or not, is for you to decide. May 21, 2013 at 3:20

Most if not all of the big name RDBMS include spatial data types. To that end, ArcSDE isn't necessary to store or display geographic features. ArcSDE does add management features to ensure that versioned editing and complex geographic rules like networks and topology work to keep your features complete and clean. Geodatabase functionality keeps relationships and things like field aliases for your features. All of this is what makes ArcSDE a nice wrapper for geographic features inside of a database. However the same type of benefits could be created without SDE but it would take a considerable amount of development and database design. Please note that geographic features can be stored using geography or geometry. The latter is Cartesian storage, meaning planar


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.