ArcGIS system patterns

ArcGIS system patterns are common types of systems built with ArcGIS. They are geospatial in nature, support multiple deployment models, and are not specific to any one industry or market segment.

What is a system?

A system is a set of capabilities, products, and procedures that are configured and built to work together in support of workflows. Systems are typically determined by the function they provide to the organization, along with defined and supported workflows, as well as more specific functional and non-functional requirements.

What is an ArcGIS system pattern?

ArcGIS system patterns are abstractions of actual systems, describing the most common types of geospatial systems that organizations implement with ArcGIS software and services. System patterns are typically observed across multiple industries and markets. The goal of system patterns is to help those designing and building IT and GIS systems understand the most common ways ArcGIS capabilities and products are combined into systems than organizations design, deploy, and operate.

For example, a data editing and management system is used for editing and managing an organization’s authoritative data. Some of the core workflows for the data editing and management system are the ability to create data models, edit attributes and geometry, and audit edits. This system pattern may take multiple forms when implemented in an industry-specific context. Some examples of this are shown below.

ArcGIS system pattern examples

System patterns may also be combined to build more complex and industry-specific systems. For example, a vegetation management system is a type of system commonly used in energy utilities to reduce the potential spread of wildfire by removing, modifying, and managing vegetation. Vegetation management systems typically require data editing and management, as well as imagery data management, mobile operations, and offline data management. They are also often combined or integrated with a self-service mapping, analysis, and sharing capabilities and/or enterprise applications for engaging with stakeholders. Learn more about how to design and build systems using system patterns.

Introducing the ArcGIS system patterns

There are currently eight (8) ArcGIS system patterns:

  1. Location services systems deliver ready-to-use, location-based services for enterprise-wide and/or public use. This system pattern can support a variety of location-based capabilities including basemaps, places, geocoding, routing, and spatial analytics, and deliver an organization’s own foundational location data services to the enterprise. Location services systems are foundational, often delivering capabilities to other systems within the enterprise.

  2. Self-service mapping, analysis, and sharing systems are web-centric, services-based systems for self-service creation, sharing, and use of data, maps, and applications. This system pattern empowers individuals and teams to create, share, and use geospatial content without significant technical expertise or GIS knowledge. It also supports self-service spatial analysis. While web-centric, users may interact with it using not only web applications, but also mobile applications and ArcGIS Pro, a desktop application. This pattern is often how ArcGIS is introduced to an organization and can serve as both an engagement center and a creative engine for the enterprise.

  3. Enterprise application hosting and management systems deliver applications to enterprise and/or public stakeholders. Applications delivered from this system pattern tend to be web or mobile applications, and typically that have rigid technical requirements and SLAs for areas like reliability, performance, and scalability.

  4. Data editing and management systems support editing and managing authoritative, structured data, typically within an organization. Traditionally, this pattern relies heavily on GIS professionals and desktop editing, though modern implementations enable web and mobile editing through a services-based architecture.

  5. Imagery data management systems are used for cataloging and serving large collections of imagery, Lidar, elevation, multidimensional, and/or oriented imagery at any scale in both 2D and 3D contexts. This system pattern supports cataloging, querying, loading data models and rendering imagery for enterprise use cases, with access through web services and on-the-fly processing supporting visualization, exploitation, and analysis.

  6. Mobile operations and offline data management systems enable a full spectrum of online and offline mobile usage scenarios. This includes field data collection, editing, and operations use cases using native applications, mobile databases, and web-based data synchronization technology. This system pattern can also be used for non-editing scenarios, in which mobile users take data and maps offline on native devices for situational awareness, navigation, and decision support in the field (including embedded applications, like in vehicle navigation).

  7. Big data analytics systems are used for analyzing large volumes of geographic and tabular data. This system pattern leverages Apache Spark as the engine for performing large-scale data analytics in batch on distributed compute infrastructure. Spatial and temporal big data analytic results are typically written back to data stores for further downstream analysis, or to other ArcGIS systems for visualization and further geographic analysis.

  8. Real-time data streaming and analytics systems allow organizations to ingest, visualize, and analyze data from real-time feeds, such as sensors, assets, and other dynamic data sources. Data can be used for real-time mapping, stored as spatiotemporal big data for further analysis, and to trigger actions and alerts based on occurring events. This pattern connects to live data feeds and other rapidly emitting data sources such as the Internet of Things (IoT).


These system patterns do not represent all of the system types that can be realized with ArcGIS.

System patterns are described with two levels of detail, starting at a conceptual and overview level that is product and deployment model agnostic. The overview level describes capabilities, workflows, broad technical considerations, as well as industry-specific system examples. System patterns also provide logical level architectures that are product or deployment model specific. This second level of detail includes baseline logical architecture diagrams as well as specific architectural considerations. For more information see the anatomy of a system pattern.

The system patterns presented in the ArcGIS Well-Architected Framework are resources intended for educational and information purposes. They may be helpful in aligning an organization’s needs to specific system types, and then in understanding characteristics, technical considerations, as well as constraints and tradeoffs that are typically relevant in system design and decision-making processes. For more information see using system patterns.

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