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Serving cached imagery

Many organizations need to share their imagery. Image services are one solution—they provide powerful access to imagery data, performing on-the-fly mosaicking and dynamic image processing. However, many applications don't require these capabilities. For organizations that need to quickly and efficiently share static imagery (or organizations that don't have access to ArcGIS Image Server), serving cached image tiles is often a good solution.

Hosted tile layers (also called tile cache) support fast visualization of large datasets using a collection of pre-drawn, static tiles at different resolutions. They can be generated from either mosaic datasets or raster datasets, but they only support three-band, eight-bit natural color or elevation data, and don't support dynamic mosaicking or raster functions—that's what makes caching appropriate for static imagery that doesn't change often, like basemaps. Caching is often recommended for serving traditional natural color, preprocessed, and orthorectified imagery, or elevation for visualization in 3D scenes.

Hosted tile layers can be published to either ArcGIS Online or your ArcGIS Enterprise portal. (To publish a hosted tile layer, you must use the default Publisher role or a custom role that has publishing privileges in your organization.) There are multiple flavors of tile cache used across ArcGIS, but when you're working with imagery or elevation data, specifically, there are two recommended workflows:

  • Build a tile package in ArcGIS Pro, then upload and publish to your ArcGIS Enterprise portal or ArcGIS Online organization. (For non-ArcGIS Enterprise users, this option will use fewer credits.)
  • Define your map in ArcGIS Pro and allow your portal or ArcGIS Online to create the tiles.

When working with imagery or elevation data, you'll use the Tile Cache toolset to create the tile cache in ArcGIS Pro:

  1. Run Generate Tile Cache Tiling Scheme to define the tiling grid and image format.
  2. Run Manage Tile Cache to build the tiles.
  3. Run Export Tile Cache to create the tile package.
  4. Run Share Package (in the Package toolset) to upload the tiles to ArcGIS Online or your ArcGIS Enterprise portal.

You may also want to use the add-in Raster Tile Cache Tools (available from Esri Imagery Workflows), which are based on the existing ArcGIS cache solutions but provide a simplified user experience optimized for imagery and elevation, plus an additional tool for preserving and managing metadata.

For most applications, it's best (and simplest) to create and serve tile cache using the above workflows. It is also possible, though, to cache an image service. Similar to hosted tile layers, image service caching pre-generates tiles that can be accessed and visualized faster than dynamically processing the imagery each time ArcGIS Server makes a request. When you cache an image service, the imagery can be accessed very quickly as a static tiled service, or it can be accessed dynamically for data, queries, downloading, access to individual items, processing, and analysis.


To generate tile cache (also called tile layers), you'll need ArcGIS Pro. (To leverage the improved caching capabilities of the .tpkx file format, use ArcGIS Pro 2.4+. The .tpkx file, used to package tile cache, is an improved version of the .tpk file. These files are faster to generate and publish, and they can be used as a raster format within ArcGIS Pro, making it easier to work with very large basemap datasets.)

To host tile cache, you'll need an account with publishing privileges in either an ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise organization. To cache an image service, you'll need ArcGIS Image Server.

Imagery Workflows resources

Community-supported tools and best practices for working with imagery and automating workflows:

  • Download the Raster Tile Cache Tools, which are based on the existing ArcGIS cache solutions but provide a simplified user experience optimized for imagery and elevation, plus an additional tool for preserving and managing metadata.*

ArcGIS Help

Reference material for ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Enterprise:

Esri Community

Online places for the Esri community to connect, collaborate, and share experiences:

* Esri's top picks

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