Support Consuming Vector Tiles in ArcMap

07-06-2016 08:10 AM
Status: Open
Occasional Contributor III


Vector Tiles are a fantastic new addition to the ArcGIS Platform. They draw incredibly fast, are scale independent, never pixelate, have insignificant storage requirements compared to raster tiles and their styling is done via simple json and is completely decoupled from the actual vector data from which the tiles are generated.

Simply put, they are pretty amazing.

ArcGIS Professional supports the creation and consumption of Vector Tiles. However, ArcMap does not. So for consumption in ArcMap, you have to use the traditional raster tile Basemap services. I'll be the first to admin that this is not really a problem when Esri hosts lots of different raster basemaps and provides those services for free, but what about when you want to a custom basemap which can be consumed in both ArcGIS Professional and ArcMap? Your only choice is a raster-tile basemap service.

The cooking-time and storage requirements to produce and host a raster-tile basemap service are orders of magnitude greater than that of a Vector Basemap, not to mention the additional capabilities that Vector Tiles bring to the table.

  • With raster tiles, you have to cook an entirely new basemap for every style you want to support creating a compounding storage requirement. Sure, you could host your raster-basemap service for the entire Country, Continent or World on ArcGIS Online, let me know how that works out for you when you see how many credits that burns though.
  • With vector tiles, you host the data in vector format once which is a much smaller storage requirement and style that vector data with simple json client-side.

  • With raster tiles, if the device is rotated, any labels or markers you cooked into the basemap also get rotated, giving you sideways or even inverted labels and/or markers.
  • With vector tiles, those elements are decoupled from the basemap.

  • With raster tiles, you have to choose your scale ranges wisely, balancing your storage capabilities against the level of scale granularity in your basemap service.
  • With vector tiles, that issue goes away as the vector data can scale indefinitely.

There are still many capabilities that exist only in ArcMap which do not exist in ArcGIS Pro. Esri themselves will gladly tell you that ArcMap is not going away for a very, very long time because it will take a very, very long time for ArcGIS Pro to catch up to ArcMap in terms of capabilities.

If that's true, then ArcMap needs to support Vector Tiles so that customers hosting their own custom basemaps can put their NAS devices and SANs to good use, instead of being forced to continue to cook and host a massive set of raster tiles simply for the purpose of supporting the legacy product which continues to remain Esri's Flagship Product while it's successor plays catch up.


1 Comment

Another prob more feasible option would be for Esri to support the server side creation of raster tiles from a vector tile basemap. This approach is being done by other tile servers and allows the map creator to cache and host once but to also supply to software or users not comfortable moving from raster tiles.