It is the end of the year, and our talented Safers are wrapping up a new release of FME Server. We’ve put a lot into this one and I want to reveal what we’ve done to implement your feedback from the last FME Server Customer Survey.
With last year’s survey, we received feedback from 11% of all FME Server accounts. You told us what you like, dislike, and many things in between. First, I want to thank you for your time and sharing your insight. Second, I am again going to ask you to spend 10-15 minutes and take this year’s:
The Season of Giving (Feedback)
Your feedback is vital to what we do.
We combine the survey responses with our enhancement and problem-tracking database, as well as your suggestions in Ideas Exchange, to form an overall understanding of what is important to you. This understanding is combined with our strategic goals to create our development plan for the next release.
Also note, you can enter a raffle for a PRIZE and your odds are much better than the lottery. So take the:
We Listened, and Here’s What We Did
Web User Interface
You told us you didn’t love the Web UI, but we won’t stop trying to win your love. This release we’ve updated the look and the feel in many ways. We’ve gone green with 2016 and I think users on 2015 will be green with envy. All jokes aside, take a look at the background and buttons on the Schedules page below, comparing 2016 (top) and 2015 (bottom).
This update is more than aesthetic. Various pages, including Schedules, Resources, and Jobs, stretch across the screen and use all available space to see labels and values.
Speaking of jobs, each user is able to view the status and results of his or her own jobs, regardless of permissions. Your votes indicated this enhancement was quite important. Previously, you had to give a user access to every user’s jobs in order for them to see their own. Now they get exactly the information they need and no more.
We asked how you use the Web UI with your mobile device and you indicated that getting job status was your main objective. We rewrote the job status page to be inline rather than tabbed. The result (left) is a familiar mobile scrolling feel that provides faster access to job information.
It’s better to be fast and you also told us performance is important to you. On the Resources page, the treeview used to struggle with larger volumes of files. Redesigned for 2016, each directory’s contents are displayed in a separate page view. The Resources page now allows thousands of files to be browsed with good performance.
You told us you wanted improvements with published parameters. We’ve made a large improvement with source dataset parameters, for one. If you want to upload a dataset or browse to select an existing dataset, simply click the ellipsis button to reveal the interface for that purpose. Once you’re done, the Browse interface hides away. Nice and clean.
What I’m most excited about is something more primitive: running jobs. You told us this is one of your most common interactions with FME Server. Other common interactions are publishing and checking job status. So we added cool new stuff to the homepage of FME Server.
The homepage is now useful for getting to your most common tasks and information faster. You can quickly access recently published workspaces and recently run jobs for the user account you logged in with. You can also favorite workspaces, as there are bound to be some workspaces you run more often than others.
Installation and Setup
Some things you least liked were complexity and the installation process. You also rate reliability as being very important.
We have removed the need for one of the most challenging pieces of the FME Server system: FlexLM. Replacing it is a new licensing system that lets you activate your FME Server installation in 10 seconds by pressing a button. No digging around for text files, ensuring ports are open, etc. No complexity. Gaining more control over the vital task of licensing is a big win for reliability.
Your feedback reveals that installing FME Server can be a challenge, particularly when distributing components. We’ve revised the installer to make distributed installation more obvious and we’ve updated our documentation to help you plan a distributed installation based on your needs.
Troubleshooting was one of your least favorite aspects of FME Server. We figured the best way to avoid that was to stop trouble before it started: trouble-stopping.
With Enterprise systems, disks can fill up and cause mysterious symptoms. For temporary datasets like FME Engine results and File Uploads, automated cleanup tasks were present at install time. To change the frequency of cleanup, you needed to login to the machine, edit a number of configuration files, and restart FME Server.
We have moved all temporary datasets to a new Resource directory called System and added System Cleanup tasks. Every temporary file cleanup task is now configured through the Web UI.
Configuring FME Server through the Web UI is a better experience than text files, but what if you enter invalid settings? Such is sometimes the case when creating publications and subscriptions. To prevent this, we added validation to the connection settings you enter. You get immediate feedback if, for example, the FTP host you entered can’t be reached.
Validating settings are great, especially when you have a complicated configuration with many options. But what if some of those options are causing confusion and problems? That was the case with a few security policies. Specifically, you may notice the REST and Token security policies are no longer available. Any user is free to use the REST API with a token, but rest assured that their abilities will still be restricted by the remaining policies.
More, MORE, MORE!!!
There are too many to mention, but I’d like to end with two improvements we’ve made based on your response to questions we had never asked before.
We sometimes make fun of how old FTP is, comparing it to its younger, cooler file sharing brethren S3—and I do believe S3 provides many advantages over FTP. However, your feedback indicates FTP is still quite relevant, and I must admit our support department uses it often.
As such, we have honored your feedback and added a new SFTP subscriber for sending data to SFTP sites and a new FTP Watch publisher for monitoring changes on FTP sites.
Finally, we asked if you were interested in FME Server certification and you are! I’m happy to announce we are well underway with developing FME Server certification. The scenarios and questions for the exam have been drafted and we are now adding the polish. Likely there will be a staged rollout to refine the process, but look for it in 2016.
So there you have it. I hope that gives you some sense of the importance of your responses to the FME Server Customer Survey. So what are you waiting for?! Take the:
With 10-15 minutes of your time, you can help influence 1,872,000 minutes of ours (~1 year of FME Server development).