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Dale Lutz

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About Data    |   March 10, 2010   |   By Dale Lutz

Delta Dawn and FME – Hotfixes and Service Packs

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:

  • April 2nd: Service Pack 1 (14 weeks worth of fixes) – (it’s a bad plan to start anything on April 1st)
  • July 1st: Service Pack 2 (12 weeks worth of fixes) – if required
  • October 1st: Service Pack 3 (28 or 16 weeks worth of fixes) – if required

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!”