Spatial Dataset Services API

Last Updated: May 2017

Spatial dataset services are web services that can be used to store and publish file-based spatial datasets (e.g.: Shapefile and GeoTiff). The spatial datasets published using spatial dataset services are made available in a variety of formats, many of which or more web friendly than the native format (e.g.: PNG, JPEG, GeoJSON, and KML).

One example of a spatial dataset service is GeoServer, which is capable of storing and serving vector and raster datasets in several popular formats including Shapefiles, GeoTiff, ArcGrid and others. GeoServer serves the data in a variety of formats via the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards including Web Feature Service (WFS), Web Map Service (WMS), and Web Coverage Service (WCS).

Tethys app developers can use this Spatial Dataset Services API to store and access :term:` spatial datasets` for use in their apps and publish any resulting datasets their apps may produce.

Key Concepts

There are quite a few concepts that you should understand before working with GeoServer and spatial dataset services. Definitions of each are provided here for quick reference.

Resources are the spatial datasets. These can vary in format ranging from a single file or multiple files to database tables depending on the type resource.

Feature Type: is a type of resource containing vector data or data consisting of discreet features such as points, lines, or polygons and any tables of attributes that describe the features.

Coverage: is a type of resource containing raster data or numeric gridded data.

Layers: are resources that have been published. Layers associate styles and other settings with the resource that are needed to generate maps of the resource via OGC services.

Layer Groups: are preset groups of layers that can be served as WMS services as though they were one layer.

Stores: represent repositories of spatial datasets such as database tables or directories of shapefiles. A store containing only feature types is called a Data Store and a store containing only coverages is called a Coverage Store.

Workspaces: are arbitrary groupings of data to help with organization of the data. It would be a good idea to store all of the spatial datasets for your app in a workspace resembling the name of your app to avoid conflicts with other apps.

Styles: are a set of rules that dictate how a layer will be rendered when accessed via WMS. A layer may be associated with many styles and a style may be associated with many layers. Styles on GeoServer are written in Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD) format.

Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD): An XML-based markup language that can be used to specify how spatial datasets should be rendered. See GeoServer's SLD Cookbook for a good primer on SLD.

Web Feature Service (WFS): An OGC standard for exchanging vector data (i.e.: feature types) over the internet. WFS can be used to not only query for the features (points, lines, and polygons) but also the attributes associated with the features.

Web Coverage Service (WCS): An OGC standard for exchanging raster data (i.e.: coverages) over the internet. WCS is roughly the equivalent of WFS but for coverages, access to the raw coverage information, not just the image.

Web Mapping Service (WMS): An OGC standard for generating and exchanging maps of spatial data over the internet. WMS can be used to compose maps of several different spatial dataset sources and formats.

Spatial Dataset Engine References

All SpatialDatasetEngine objects implement a minimum set of base methods. However, some SpatialDatasetEngine objects may include additional methods that are unique to that SpatialDatasetEngine implementation and the arguments that each method accepts may vary slightly. Refer to the following references for the methods that are offered by each SpatailDatasetEngine.

Spatial Dataset Service Settings

Using dataset services in your app is accomplished by adding the spatial_dataset_service_settings() method to your app class, which is located in your app configuration file ( This method should return a list or tuple of SpatialDatasetServiceSetting. For example:

from tethys_sdk.app_settings import SpatialDatasetServiceSetting

class MyFirstApp(TethysAppBase):
    Tethys App Class for My First App.
    def spatial_dataset_service_settings(self):
        Example spatial_dataset_service_settings method.
        sds_settings = (
                description='spatial dataset service for app to use',

        return sds_settings


The ellipsis in the code block above indicates code that is not shown for brevity. DO NOT COPY VERBATIM.

Assign Spatial Dataset Service

The SpatialDatasetServiceSetting can be thought of as a socket for a connection to a SpatialDatasetService. Before we can do anything with the SpatialDatasetServiceSetting we need to "plug in" or assign a SpatialDatasetService to the setting. The SpatialDatasetService contains the connection information and can be used by multiple apps. Assigning a SpatialDatasetService is done through the Admin Interface of Tethys Portal as follows:

  1. Create SpatialDatasetService if one does not already exist

    1. Access the Admin interface of Tethys Portal by clicking on the drop down menu next to your user name and selecting the "Site Admin" option.

    2. Scroll to the Tethys Service section of the Admin Interface and select the link titled Spatial Dataset Services.

    3. Click on the Add Spatial Dataset Service button.

    4. Fill in the connection information to the database server.

    5. Press the Save button to save the new SpatialDatasetService.


    You do not need to create a new SpatialDatasetService for each SpatialDatasetServiceSetting or each app. Apps and SpatialDatasetServiceSettings can share DatasetServices.

  2. Navigate to App Settings Page

    1. Return to the Home page of the Admin Interface using the Home link in the breadcrumbs or as you did in step 1a.

    2. Scroll to the Tethys Apps section of the Admin Interface and select the Installed Apps linke.

    3. Select the link for your app from the list of installed apps.

  3. Assign SpatialDatasetService to the appropriate SpatialDatasetServiceSetting

    1. Scroll to the Spatial Dataset Services Settings section and locate the SpatialDatasetServiceSetting.


    If you don't see the SpatialDatasetServiceSetting in the list, uninstall the app and reinstall it again.

    1. Assign the appropriate SpatialDatasetService to your SpatialDatasetServiceSetting using the drop down menu in the Spatial Dataset Service column.

    2. Press the Save button at the bottom of the page to save your changes.


During development you will assign the SpatialDatasetService setting yourself. However, when the app is installed in production, this steps is performed by the portal administrator upon installing your app, which may or may not be yourself.

Working with Spatial Dataset Services

After spatial dataset services have been properly configured, you can use the services to store, publish, and retrieve data for your apps. This process typically involves the following steps:

1. Get a Spatial Dataset Engine

Call the get_spatial_dataset_service() method of the app class to get a SpatialDatasetEngine:

from import MyFirstApp as app

geoserver_engine = app.get_spatial_dataset_engine('primary_geoserver', as_engine=True)

You can also create a SpatialDatasetEngine object directly. This can be useful if you want to vary the credentials for dataset access frequently (e.g.: using user specific credentials):

from tethys_dataset_services.engines import GeoServerSpatialDatasetEngine

spatial_dataset_engine = GeoServerSpatialDatasetEngine(endpoint='', username='admin', password='geoserver')


Take care not to store API keys, usernames, or passwords in the source files of your app--especially if the source code is made public. This could compromise the security of the spatial dataset service.

2. Use the Spatial Dataset Engine

After you have a SpatialDatasetEngine object, simply call the desired method on it. All SpatialDatasetEngine methods return a dictionary with an item named 'success' that contains a boolean. If the operation was successful, 'success' will be true, otherwise it will be false. If 'success' is true, the dictionary will have an item named 'result' that will contain the results. If it is false, the dictionary will have an item named 'error' that will contain information about the error that occurred. This can be very useful for debugging and error catching purposes.

Consider the following example for uploading a shapefile to spatial dataset services:

from import MyFirstApp as app

# First get an engine
engine = app.get_spatial_dataset_engine('primary_geoserver', as_engine=True)

# Create a workspace named after our app
engine.create_workspace(workspace_id='my_app', uri='')

# Path to shapefile base for foo.shp, side cars files (e.g.: .shx, .dbf) will be
# gathered in addition to the .shp file.
shapefile_base = '/path/to/foo'

# Notice the workspace in the store_id parameter
result = dataset_engine.create_shapefile_resource(store_id='my_app:foo', shapefile_base=shapefile_base)

# Check if it was successful
if not result['success']:

A new shapefile Data Store will be created called 'foo' in workspace 'my_app' and a resource will be created for the shapefile called 'foo'. A layer will also automatically be configured for the new shapefile resource.


When you are learning how to use the spatial dataset engine methods, run the commands with the debug parameter set to true. This will automatically pretty print the result dictionary to the console so that you can inspect its contents:

# Example method with debug option

3. Get OGC Web Service URL

Publishing the spatial dataset with a spatial dataset service would be pointless without using the service to render the data on a map. This can be done by querying the data using the OGC web services WFS, WCS, or WMS. The dictionary that is returned when retrieving layers, layer groups, or resources will include a key for appropriate OGC services for the object returned. Feature type resources will provide a "wfs" key, coverage resources will provide a "wcs" key, and layers and layergroups will provide a "wms" key. The value will be another dictionary of OGC queries for different endpoints. For example:

# Get a feature type layer
response = engine.get_layer(layer_id='sf:roads', debug=True)

# Response dictionary includes "wms" key with links to maps in various formats
{'result': {'advertised': True,
            'attribution': None,
            'catalog': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/',
            'default_style': 'simple_roads',
            'enabled': None,
            'href': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/rest/layers/sf%3Aroads.xml',
            'name': 'sf:roads',
            'resource': 'sf:roads',
            'resource_type': 'layer',
            'styles': ['sf:line'],
            'wms': {'georss': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=rss',
                    'geotiff8': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=image/geotiff8',
                    'geptiff': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=image/geotiff',
                    'gif': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=image/gif',
                    'jpeg': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=image/jpeg',
                    'kml': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=kml',
                    'kmz': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=kmz',
                    'openlayers': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=application/openlayers',
                    'pdf': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=application/pdf',
                    'png': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=image/png',
                    'png8': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=image/png8',
                    'svg': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=image/svg',
                    'tiff': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=image/tiff',
                    'tiff8': 'http://localhost:8181/geoserver/wms?service=WMS&version=1.1.0&request=GetMap&layers=sf:roads&styles=simple_roads&transparent=true&tiled=no&srs=EPSG:26713&bbox=589434.8564686741,4914006.337837095,609527.2102150217,4928063.398014731&width=731&height=512&format=image/tiff8'}},
 'success': True}

These links could be passed on to a web mapping client like OpenLayers or Google Maps to render the map interactively on a web page. Note that the OGC mapping services are very powerful and the links provided represent only a simple query. You can construct custom OGC URLs queries without much difficulty. For excellent primers on WFS, WCS, and WMS with GeoServer, visit these links: