DNS, naming, and URLs

In deployments of ArcGIS Enterprise, and use of ArcGIS Enterprise services in ArcGIS Online or other applications, the use of DNS, naming conventions, and URLs are pivotal aspects underpinning accessibility and efficient communication within the system. DNS serves as the base for all inter-system communication, translating human-readable domain names into the requisite IP addresses, enabling users and applications to locate resources on the internet or intranet. Beyond DNS, naming conventions help to ensure that systems are identifiable based on their URL or hostname, and the use of friendly URLs for commonly used applications is a popular approach to help users remember the application information, but also to manage the external-facing “brand” of the application, by including an organization name or friendly short name.

Naming conventions

Clear naming conventions are important for systems with multiple servers, environments, and ArcGIS deployments. These conventions include intentionally naming various elements such as ArcGIS Server sites, services, web maps, databases, and server machines. A structured and organized approach to naming not only aids administrators in resource identification but also contributes significantly to the systematic management of the ArcGIS Enterprise deployment.

Using clear and standardized names for services and data layers helps users and developers find and reference them efficiently. The use of logical naming conventions could include:

  • Use letters to signify the purpose of a server or service, such as D for database, A for application, or W for web server.
  • Use letters to identify the environment that a server participates in, such as D, A or P for Development, Acceptance or Production
  • Use of numbers to identify servers that share the same role, such as GISSERVER01, GISSERVER02, etc.
  • Friendly names for shares, such as a UNC share known as \\gisshare01, which likely resides on a server with a more complex name, but the friendly name eases user interaction.
  • Use of friendly aliases for ArcGIS Enterprise, such as using https://maps.orgname.com/portal instead of https://giswebsrv01.prd.orgname.net/portal

These examples are only a starting point for developing a consistent naming convention, in general it is best practice to align to existing naming standards that an IT organization may have established, with the exception of user facing URLS which should be intentionally structured to be short and memorable.

Important URLs

URLs, or Uniform Resource Locators, are instrumental in addressing and accessing various components and resources within the ArcGIS Enterprise ecosystem. Critical URLs include the Portal URL, serving as the primary entry point to the Portal for ArcGIS, and various ArcGIS Server URLs, facilitating access to various services, including map, feature, and geoprocessing services. Additionally, URLs for web applications, ArcGIS REST API endpoints, and load balancer URLs (in high-availability scenarios) all play vital roles in ensuring seamless communication and accessibility.

Important URLs in an ArcGIS Enterprise deployment include:

  • Portal URL: The URL for accessing the Portal for ArcGIS serves as the primary entry point for users and administrators.
  • ArcGIS Server URL: The URL for accessing ArcGIS Server services, including map services, feature services, and geoprocessing services.
  • Web App URLs: URLs for web applications built on ArcGIS Enterprise, such as ArcGIS Web AppBuilder or custom web apps.
  • ArcGIS REST API endpoints: The URLs for interacting with the ArcGIS REST APIs allow programmatic access to services and data.

The ArcGIS Enterprise documentation includes a dedicated page on the Components of ArcGIS URLs which provides additional context and guidance.

Durability of URLs

In an ArcGIS Enterprise deployment, or an ArcGIS Online deployment that integrates ArcGIS Enterprise services, the durability of URLs is critical. This means that once a URL is defined for an ArcGIS Enterprise deployment or component, ideally it does not change throughout the remaining lifespan of the system. The reason for this recommendation is that many components of the system are self-referential; imagine a web map, which contains references to a map service, which is accessed in a web app with a geoprocessing widget that references a geoprocessing service. For the app to function, each of these URLs must properly resolve and reach the right service, so the more durable they are, the higher likelihood of the app working properly.

Following recommendations can be considered best practices:

  • Do not attempt to change the external URL of an ArcGIS Enterprise system without careful planning
  • If ArcGIS Server URLs change, or a load balancer is introduced and a new URL is created, carefully check content in ArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online to ensure that web maps, apps and items are properly updated to reflect the new URL.
  • URL durability can be an asset, if a friendly URL (or “DNS Alias”) is used, the system which that alias resolves to can be swapped out, which allows for low downtime upgrades and a blue-green deployment style.

TLS and SSL certificates

Modern ArcGIS deployments universally rely on certificates to enable secure communications over HTTPS with TLS/SSL. Proper TLS/SSL certificate configuration is essential, particularly when handling sensitive data. Organizations often obtain TLS certificates from trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs), either commercial CAs that are trusted by most devices or organizational or private CAs that are only trusted by machines and clients “on the network” or the WAN. Once a certificate is created, it is then configured with a web server, such as Apache or IIS, or imported into the ArcGIS components to ensure encrypted and secure communication.

  • You can find more information about the specific requirements for TLS/SSL configuration within ArcGIS Enterprise in the product documentation.

DNS, naming conventions, and URLs are all critical components of a successful ArcGIS Enterprise deployment. Careful configuration and management of these components are imperative to deliver reliable, accessible GIS services while simultaneously upholding the principles of security and organizational structure within the infrastructure. Clear and consistent naming conventions and TLS/SSL certificates enhance the deployment’s efficiency, security, and manageability.