Should you have multiple maps (or dataframes) in your MapServer MXD for ArcGIS Server
At the ESRI Dev Summit 2008, I managed to get some insights into questions that have been bouncing around in my head from the ESRI folks building ArcGIS server. One such design question was whether it was reasonable to create MXDs with multiple maps in them that can be accessed as different map resources or just create different map services for multiple maps. By creating a map service with multiple data frames in them you can serve both maps with just a single instance of a SOC. When creating different map services for different maps you end up with different SOCs for each map service.
One scenario where you might ask yourself this question is when deciding whether the overview map should be in a data frame on the same map service or have a different map service for the overview map. Obviously, the overview map only has some of the layers from the map itself.
The REST API in ArcGIS Server 9.3 will only support the current data frame in the MXD.
Now to the answers, it is not a bad idea to have multiple data frames in a single MXD and consume them as separate resources as long as the multiple data frames (or maps) in the MXD do not get used simultaneously all the time. When used simultaneously, a single SOC process is going to process the requests for both the maps and thus the concurrent requests are going to slow down the service. If the maps are going to be used concurrently, then it is better to create different map services for each of the maps, this way different process can process the requests and can return faster. That being said, for most cases it is better to create separate map services for each map.