Then, last month, I had some email contact with Don Murray, the president of Safe, and he mentioned he was coming to do two FME events in the UK and would I like to come along. And I’m glad I accepted his offer. The event was very well organised and hosted (courtesy of Dotted Eyes – Safe’s primary UK partner), with some great speakers and a good mix of sessions. The day featured some “Show ‘n’ Tell” slots (as we did at the last Bing Maps UK Usergroup meeting) from the likes of the British Geological Survey and the London 2012 Olympic Games amongst others. I always find it interesting to see what other folks are doing with their spatial data, as well as the problems they’ve faced along the way. There was some nice eye-candy too, primarily courtesy of some Google Earth network links to FME Server and 3D surface models in Adobe Acrobat.
What I found most interesting though is that, despite having never used FME before, it all felt surprisingly familiar. The FME workbench, where you design spatial ETL tasks, will look very familiar to any SQL Server developers who have ever created a SSIS package – you drag various sources, destinations, and transformation elements onto the page, connected into a logical workflow, and you can define environment variables, conditional steps, counters etc. Likewise, the function of the transformers themselves felt very familiar – many of them corresponding directly to OGC methods defined by the geometry and geography datatypes in SQL Server. For example:
- The Clipper function basically determines the STIntersection() between two geometries.
- DonutBuilder subtracts one Polygon from another, a la STDifference().
- The ConxexHullReplacer is STConvexHull().
- BoundingBoxReplacer? That’s STEnvelope().
- And CenterOfGravityReplacer is STCentroid().
- Bufferer is, unsurprisingly, STBuffer().