You can use ArcGIS Desktop to author metadata for data layers in your geodatabase, and to publish your data as web services on ArcGIS Server. But you can't publish your geospatial metadata with those web services.
Esri will say, Not true. You can publish your metadata to the Web through Esri's free Geoportal Server. Then point your metadata on the Geoportal Server to your map services on your ArcGIS Server, like this:
Right. But that means you have to do the same task twice -- send your metadata to your geodatabase and send it again to your geoportal. Besides maintaining two applications servers for this purpose.
This redundancy sits atop the already cumbersome and expensive process of authoring, publishing, and maintaining FGDC/ISO-compliant geospatial metadata.
Are there less expensive options? Even Esri's FGDC/ISO-compliant metadata guru seems to think so. Here is a slide from Marten Hogeweg's geoportal workshop at the 2011 Dev Summit:
(The title/question is mine, not Marten's.)
Marten was talking about different metadata for different audiences. The public does not want or need FGDC/ISO compliant metadata. So, how can we meet the public demand, as well as the needs of our professional partners in the GIS community? I suggest a middle path - Metadata Lite - that's already suggested in Marten's diagram.
Yes, "Verbose Metadata is Desired" for the GIS Specialist Community. But today more GIS professionals are concerned with pushing data out to the public. Knowing that, it seems to me that Esri (unconsciously?) moved away from fully-compliant metadata when they "forgot" to support metadata publishing through ArcGIS Server 9.3 and 10. And now we see mere "tagging" promoted in Marten's metadata/geoportal presentations.
Take a look at ArcGIS.com. At the Esri MUG last week, Clint Brown told us that millions of maps are added to ArcGIS.com each month. But where is the geospatial metadata that enables search in a geoportal? There is none at ArcGIS.com. You can't search through others' FGDC/ISO-compliant metadata, and you can't publish your own there.
There is only Metadata Lite -- tagging to give a minor boost to the ArcGIS.com search function:
Even better, I think, is to publish your geospatial metadata through your ArcGIS Server REST catalog. When it's in the REST catalog, it doesn't intrude on the public attention span, yet GIS professionals can find it when they need it.
This is what Metadata Lite looks like from San Mateo County, published through ArcGIS Server to the county's REST catalog:
But 90 percent of the time, if you open up a REST service page like this, all the fields are blank, except a few that are machine-generated, like Extent and Spatial Reference. Why can't we simply author metadata that shows up in the REST catalog? Because ...
You need a wiring diagram. Because some of the REST catalog fields are populated from the ArcMap Document Properties tab. Others from the ArcMap Data Frame Properties tab. Others from the ArcGIS Server Manager Properties tab. Like this:
Besides that, the field names are different for the same information found in the source (e.g. ArcMap) and the destination (REST page). Like this:
So, here are a couple of wiring diagrams to help you populate the REST catalog fields:
2. Metadata Lite live map service - hosted at University of Maryland, shows where the REST catalog fields values originated.
(From a presentation I gave at the 2011 Esri MUG)