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The Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas contains almost 300 individual map layers from many different sources. In order for these layers to load quickly and reliably in a variety of web browsers, the Atlas' map window displays cached map services from an ArcGIS Server located at the National Centers for Environmental Information . The map caches are generated using the ArcGIS Server's Google Maps/Bing Maps/ArcGIS Online tiling scheme. OpenLayers, an open-source Javascript library by MetaCarta , then consumes these map caches and displays them within the Atlas map window. The ArcGIS Server also generates several types of services: API, WMS , Representational State Transfer (REST) , and KML , for users who wish display the Atlas map data in their own desktop or web-based tools.

Wiring diagram depicting the protocols supported and flow of data from the data stores to the client

To provide support for application-level clients, ArcGIS Server exposes a SOAP API1 at the server object level which consumes SOAP requests and returns SOAP responses. The implementation is dependent on two standard XML-based specifications: WSDL (Web Services Description Language) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). WSDL is used to describe networked XML-based services, and SOAP is used to describe the format of a message sent to a networked service.

1 - From ESRI Developer Network : Working with the ArcGIS Server SOAP API