Flexibility unleashed: FME’s answer to an unpredictable world

Working with data today is much more complex than it used to be – it’s much more unpredictable. You, your data, and the servers you rely on are no longer in the same predictable fixed locations. You, your data, and the servers they rely on are no longer doing the same predictable fixed work.  It’s a much more fluid and flexible world.

Are we constrained by software that still thinks we work like we used to – back in the ’90s listening to Oasis?  What we need now is flexibility. Flexibility is what FME has brought you by changing, well, everything – it’s much more Ed Sheeran than Bryan Adams.

How has the world of data changed?

Give me what I need when I need it

In the past we tended to work in a predictable way. We knew what was coming over the horizon and it looked a lot like what came over the horizon last time.  This meant that we had quite clear and definable roles that stayed in place for some time.  Now we’re less sure of what’s coming at us, but we do know it’s coming much faster.  This means what we do is much less predictable, and we have to be much more reactive.

From a software point of view, in the past we had different versions of the same software that were finely differentiated by people’s different needs.  One person needed a little bit more access to one type of database while another needed a little bit more access to another application.  This was helpful because it enabled the vendor to restrict licences to specific needs and costs.  Now, because we don’t know what we’ll be doing, this highly restricted approach has become a hinderance not an advantage – the cost benefit is greatly outweighed by the limitations of use.

Many Sources of Lots of Truths

We see a similar set of changes in our data environments.  In the past, we’d have a server in the basement and all our data would be on that server or attached directly to it.  We spent our time managing access to those servers and focused on preserving “one source of the truth”.

Today is a very different world.  The data that we directly “own” is likely to be split between an account we have on the cloud and some stubborn server remanent that still resides in our buildings.  However, this isn’t all “our” data.  We also have data in other systems that are most probably located on other clouds too. We no longer have one source of the truth but instead we are fighting to manage “many sources of lots of truths”.

From a software perspective, this is a profound change.  In the past, with our humming machines in the basement, we bought one piece of software to sit on a predictable tangible server and flexed the power up and down as our needs changed.  This was simplicity itself from a licensing position – one licence per machine with some basic options for more oomph.

Now that our data is everywhere, that single licence per server just doesn’t add up. So much so that we don’t even need licences anymore – what we need is capability.  Capability that is next to our data where we need it, when we need it, and how we need it.

We can react to these changes by buying and transferring individual licences, but the procurement hurdles then add months to any project. Just the role of managing these individual licences appropriately becomes a full-time job, which in itself, is a very expensive option.

What is FME doing about these changes?

Safe Software, the makers of FME, have responded to all these changes by radically evolving what they offer.  They used to provide a wide range of tailored products – now what they offer is flexibility.  These changes mean that you can now use FME in the way you need it.

What does that mean in practice?

For the last 4 years, the Safe Software team has been working on FME Server to break the link between where Server is installed and where it can deliver its value.  From FME v2023 onwards, that ability can now be delivered.  This means that you can have your FME Server based in Basingstoke but have it controlling an engine in Baku.  You can process your data wherever you need it to be processed.

Plus, the CPU hours innovation means that you will only pay for that engine in Baku when you need it.  So, you can install engines wherever your data is but only pay when those engines actually deliver value for you.  What I need, where I need it, and when I need it.

From a licensing perspective, Safe Software has changed the approach for all of its solutions and moved to subscriptions.  This is the fundamental change that underpins everything else. Subscriptions are single, annual payments that allow you to use any part of the FME capability, in any way you want.  This is the cornerstone that allows you to react quickly to oncoming projects and changed requirements. You no longer need to build a new business case and go plead with procurement – you just turn on another licence and deliver the work.  It’s that simple.

So, what needed to happen to make this happen?

The key thing that FME needed to give you flexibility was to make things simple.  Swapping and changing multi-tiered products is complex and very difficult to manage – now Safe has made it very simple.  There is now one desktop-based product called FME Form, and one server-based product called FME Flow. All the other products have gone.

This simplicity then delivers the flexibility. You don’t have to think about what license you need, if it’s installed on the desktop it’s called FME Form, and has all the capability of the older desktop versions combined.

What about Safe’s loyal customers?

Safe is a super loyal company, its still run by the founders, and they’re Canadian.  So obviously they are focussed on looking after their loyal customers and they have decided on three really supportive measures.

  1. While FME Form is more expensive than the previous FME Desktop Professional versions, the maintenance costs for current customers have not increased. So, if you were paying £2,000 a year in maintenance last year, you’ll be paying £2,000 a year next year.
  2. All desktop tools will be upgraded to FME Form at no additional cost. So, if you were using the most restricted version of FME, congratulations you now have a licence to the most powerful version, at no additional cost
  3. In the past it may have made sense to buy the licences separately but now Safe have introduced some remarkable offers that make subscription so sensible that buying licences individually will start to become a special case

The world has changed.  It’s far more unpredictable, far more fluid and far more challenging.  But, in many ways, much better for it.  It’s refreshing to have new challenges, learn new technologies, and develop new skills as long as we have the support and right tools to approach this.  This is what the great team behind FME has to given us.  Roll on the brave new world.