The WFS and WMS Services

OGC Web Services for accessing Geographic Data

The Open Geospatial Consortium has defined several Open Web Services for accessing (usually geographic) data. There are two basic service sets – the Web Feature Services (WFS) and the Web Map Services (WMS). The WFS is concerned with direct access to your data – reading, writing, and updating your features. The WMS is concerned with transforming your data into a map (image).

What is a Feature?
A feature is an Object that is an abstraction of a real world phenomenon. This object has a set of properties associated with each having a name, a type, and a value. An example of a feature might be Road with a Name, Location (line geometry), Width, Speed Limit, and Jurisdiction.

Typically these features are stored in a spatial database, shapefile, or other format.

OGC Open Web Services
The OGC Web Services provide access to the features – either directly or as images (maps) – in a standardized way independent of the company who created the server or the actual format the data is stored in.

What to use a the WFS services for

A WFS allows uniform direct access to the features stored on a server. Use a WFS when they want to perform actions such as:

  • query a dataset and retrieve the features
  • find the feature definition (feature’s property names and types)
  • add features to dataset
  • delete feature from a dataset
  • update feature in a dataset
  • lock features to prevent modification

A WMS allows for uniform rendering access to features stored on a server. Use a WMS when you want to perform actions such as:

  • Producing Maps
  • Very simple Querying of data
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