Esri has recently released what they call their Landscape Layers which look to be mostly image services, rather than map or feature services.

These image services look to have feature level detail where you can change the symbology to many different attributes, like a soil type name for example and even show them in a table.

I believe they are planning to release feature services for each of or most of these layers.

What are the main differences, advantages or disadvantages of these image services vs. feature services? There looks to be a lot of overlap between the two, or am I missing something here?


Image service is a type of service where a raster dataset as published and can be accessed by a client. An image service can be cached or dynamic. In the case of Landscape Layers, as you have noticed, they are dynamic image services (at least those I have previewed). This means that you have access to the symbology settings (so you can change a layer appearance directly in a web application), raster attributes if they were exposed (the ones you can see in the attribute table) and so on. Of course you can consume these layers within your ArcGIS Desktop application, but in either case you would need an AGOL for Organizations account.

The purpose of the image services of Landscape layers is to provide you with a good analysis reference. For instance, since it is a non-cached service, you have access to the rich analysis tools exposed via Image Analysis window in ArcMap. So, whatever you could do with a read-only raster dataset on your computer (mosaic dataset raster functions, time sliding, setting symbology and image analysis), you can do this with dynamic image services.

Feature service is a type of service where a vector dataset is being published and exposed to various clients. So, the file or enterprise geodatabase feature classes are published and can be accessed, queried, and sometimes even edited by web or desktop applications. The difference between image services of Landscape Layers is that you can't edit the image services since it is a raster dataset, but you may apply different raster functions on-the-fly for them in your client (such as ArcMap).

So, image services are for having a good reference map (in case of Landscape Layers, those are non-cached dynamic image services that were published based on geodatabase raster datasets, so you can query them) or for GIS analysis (which you can do both in rich web clients or in ArcMap). Feature services are for accessing and editing vector GIS data and not for publishing rasters.

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  • Great answer, that helps. Sounds like imagery services are the way to go if no editing is required. That said, it really wouldn't make any sense for Esri to offer these landscape layers as a feature service, since there is no reason to edit them. – wilbev Nov 27 '13 at 4:11
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    Glad it's helpful. Exactly, those services will be left as image services and I also don't see any relevance in exposing these reference datasets as feature services. Maybe there will be some other datasets that are not rasters (since you cannot edit rasters with feature service) that will become feature services, but this is a whole different story. – Alex Tereshenkov Nov 27 '13 at 6:54

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