A couple weeks ago I wrote about the 5 Stages of an FME Release, and long time customer and FME enthusiast Michael Habarta commented on the fact that after we finish a release, the issue of the post-release tweaks inevitably crops up. Michael suggested we call these the FME “Deltas”, since they manifest themselves as new build numbers following the official FME release build (which Michael referred to as gamma). We talked about this internally and have come up with a plan which we’d like to bounce off the community. So, with apologies to Tanya Tucker and Helen Reddy, I present the Dawn of The FME Deltas (well, that sounds more like the title of a Terminator sequel).

The Dilemma
On the one hand, we want to provide timely fixes to customers who will not work with a new beta of FME, and whose need we can address, relatively risk free, by altering the current release. On the other hand, we don’t want to have a new release build appearing at unknown frequency on our website for all customers. To resolve these opposing tugs, we’ve come up with the following plan.

The Plan
As we make minor tweaks for customers, we will make a release build specifically for them. We will call this new build a hotfix and make it available for them to download in a private area of our website. The hotfix builds will be cumulative, with each subsequent build containing the fixes of all previous ones. On a regularly scheduled basis (proposed schedule below), we will roll up the hotfixes, do additional testing, and post a new FME, euphemistically called a service pack but in reality a reinstall, which contains the total of all hotfixes made in the preceding period. Note that the train only runs in one direction – once we put out a service pack, any new tweaks will be hotfixes to it – there would be no way to pick and choose the hotfixes someone wanted. For each year we’d plan on providing up to four service packs (with the first in February), but since we’re already in the third month of 2010, the schedule we’re thinking of for this year is:

We think that this plan will allow us to provide timely fixes to those in need, keeping in line with our value of being responsive to customers, while at the same time providing stability for customers who value that.

Your Thoughts?
I welcome your thoughts on this plan. And let me add that it requires a mature infrastructure and development process to be able to pull this off, while at the same time cranking out a continuous flow of FME 2011 betas (subscribe to Bob the FME Builder if you want to be in the know). I’m very proud of the unsung behind-the-scenes heroes in the Safe “Beta Locker” that pull together and pull this off day in and day out – well done!”

About Data FME Beta

Dale Lutz

Dale is the co-founder and VP of Development at Safe Software. After starting his career working spatial data (ranging from icebergs to forest stands) for many years, he and other co-founder, Don Murray, realized the need for a data integration platform like FME. His favourite TV show is Star Trek, which inspired the names for most of the meeting rooms and common areas in the Safe Software office. Dale is always looking to learn more about the data industry and FME users. Find him on Twitter to learn more about what his recent discoveries are!


6 Responses to “Delta Dawn and FME – Hotfixes and Service Packs”

  1. Jeff Konnen says:

    That’s a good idea as big organizations are often reluctant to install a build called “beta”.

    As SAFE is always very reactive to get fixes and new functionality into beta builds, it’s often interesting to install intermediate builds and it will be easier to do so if they are called SP rather than beta.

    keep on rocking

  2. Dale Lutz says:

    Thanks Jeff, it will be interesting to see how this ends up being received, and how much new functionality we put in as each service pack unfolds. We will have an overriding concern for stability so that may limit the *new stuff*, but at least we’ll have a mechanism.


  3. Michael says:

    Hello Dale

    I’d expect the October Service Pack 3 should not be necessary if end of the year the cycle is supposed to repeat …

    But this is talking for an “old” and mature project. For INSPIRE we may not hit official releases for a while 😉 as Don put it: “We’re always living at the edge …”

    Brings a funny comment to mind: “Last year we were really at the edge, this year we are one step further …”

    Let’s see

  4. Lassi Tani says:

    This goes off topic now, but living at the edge with Inspire? Maybe, but if you look at the Inspire Transformation Specifications, there is no final documents, just drafts. One Finnish GIS solutions vendor said, we’re finding solutions for Inspire implementation before the Inspire rules are final! That’s also what Safe is doing, as I see it, and you’re quite well positioned in the race.

  5. Dale Lutz says:

    Good comments! I have to say I’m reminded of some political satire from years ago where a leader says “We are standing on the edge of a great precipice, and I invite you all to join me with one giant bold step forward”. To INSPIRE and beyond!

  6. Dale Lutz says:

    Well, better late than never. SP1 of FME 2010 is now available — read http://www.safe.com/aboutus/news/2010/144/index.htm for some details, go to http://www.safe.com/support/downloads.php to download it, or read our utilitarian list of what’s new at http://downloads.safe.com/fme/2010/Whats_New_in_FME_2010_Service_Pack_1.txt !

    Now we start thinking about SP2. All the while, of course, FME 2011 betas keep rolling off the line — follow Bob at http://twitter.com/fmebetabuilder to watch ’em pop out!

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