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Is there any way to enable "feature access" when publishing a map using ArcGIS 10.1 server, without installing ArcSDE?

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You don't need to install ArcSDE for enabling feature access capability of a map service in 10.1. You however would need to register a database as a geodatabase which will create multiple system tables (geodatabase schema) in this database. Starting with 10.1, you need to install ArcSDE only when you need to establish application server connection. If you are using direct connect, you are fine since all the libraries needed to access an enterprise geodatabase stored in a supported RDBMS are already shipped with ArcGIS Desktop and you don't need to install anything on top of that. More information on that here.

In 10.2, Esri has introduced a new feature. You can publish a map service with feature access based on a table with a spatial field (for instance, SQL Server native spatial type Geometry) and use this service for web editing without registering a database as geodatabase. More information on that here.

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    I have registered a geodatabase however when I am trying to enable the feature access in arcgis manager and then save and restart the service I am getting this error: "Capability: Feature Access requires that the data be on SDE; other types of data sources are not supported" – KDot1254 Sep 3 '13 at 18:49
  • Are you able to use ArcMap when authoring your map service and run Analyze to see what layers cause problems and check their data sources? Also, what license do you have for server? You would need Standard or Advanced. – Alex Tereshenkov Sep 4 '13 at 3:50

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