Safe Software FME Workbench users meet

Users from Shell, GE Energy and CH2M Hill report on deployment of popular geo ETL toolset.

The 2008 Safe Software FME User Conference, held last month in Vancouver, heard several presentation from oil and gas practitioners of GIS ‘feature manipulation.’ Safe’s FME is a geographically aware set of extract transform and load (ETL) tools that can be used for data migration, project building and in other GIS workflows.


Marc van Nes outlined some of the challenges of spatial data management in Shell. E&P data has a long lifetime during which it is used by many applications running on different platforms. Data management requires a flexible approach and a toolset like FME. 80% of all information has a spatial geo-reference—making geo information the ‘backbone’ for business. GIS data is gathered from many sources. Point data may be scraped from state web sites (van Nes recommends imacros from Image data is likewise available from USGS and other public sites. Such cultural data is combined with domain specific data from a variety of coordinate databases to create projects for the interpreter.


FME was used by Shell to migrate its legacy GenaMap data to ESRI, for data movement between various Oracle Spatial instances and other geo processing tasks. van Nes also reported use of Open GIS web feature services and the increasing use of CAD as a GIS data source. Looking to the future, van Nes anticipates a services-based infrastructure with data servers able to supply context-tuned data on request. The integration of GIS with 3D exploration systems like Petrel is also a pressing need. Summing up, van Nes described FME Workbench as a ‘valuable and versatile tool.’ FME plays a central role in Shell’s spatialization effort. With correct usage it is ‘almost self documenting,’ while its batch capabilities make it a workhorse.

GE Energy

John Snell introduced GE Energy’s ‘FME design patterns’ which produce simple, maintainable GIS workspaces which minimize duplication. Snell’s talk was subtitled, ‘avoiding the chamber of horrors!’ A design pattern is a ‘general solution to a common software problem.’ One example is the ‘central workflow’ pattern. This migrates complex point to point workflows into a ‘central workflow’ pattern where multiple sources enter the workflow from a single point. Filters and transforms are then applied in a way that minimizes duplication. The concept gets more interesting when the central workflow is combined with GE’s external attribute schema map pattern. This simplifies and manages the mapping of attribute names between source and destination feature types.

CH2M Hill

Jubal Harpster described how CH2M Hill uses the FME Server to implement enterprise data delivery. CH2M has been working to deliver data from the new FME Server along with web platforms such as Google Earth. The prototype FME Server was demoed streaming data from multiple back-end technologies through Google Earth Enterprise. Harpster also mentioned the GeoServer open source workflow project which has a ‘large and growing community of users.’ Other ETL tools from Talend and Camp2Camp also ran.

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