FileMaker licensing model and virtual machines...

Discussion created by worldcloud on Jan 27, 2012

Over the past few days there was a post about MS SQL license costs and they observed that MS SQL can be very expensive; however, they did not mention that MS licesning as different options for virtual machines and they also have plans to purchase licensing on a monhtly basis and they offer 'all you can use DataCenter' plans. They also have some site license bundles which result in deeply discounted licenses for those who make appropiate commitments to their platform. I can not defend these policies are 'fair', but simply quote retail pricing does not reflect what most Microsft users pay. If you want to 'buy' Windows 7, you will pay several hundred dollars, but we all realize that the OEM partners are purchasing the same license for far less.


If you run ten virtual machines on a 'mid-grade' rackmounted server, you could pay as much as $30,000 for FileMaker licensing. If you choose to run FileMaker Pro as a virtual app, then you have Microsoft licesning (per user), FileMaker Pro (per user), and often Citrix/ 2X/ or Ericom enhancements; which means that on a single FileMaker Pro machine you can tie up another $30,000 very easily.


It use to be that with 'per processor' costs, you could purchase insane processors and they would rapidly pay for themselves in license cost savings, but the industry has caught on to that trick. Most of the 'enterprise' providers are licensing based off of the hardware (cores) which you wish to utilize; but many are also offering SaaS (software as a Service), so you only pay for what you use.


In some ways FileMaker licensing is very fair, but in other ways it appears to be an older model. The same 'mid-grade' server mentioned above can phyically only handle a fixed number of connected users- as restrained by RAM and CPU cycles. If we install Windows Server and a single copy of FMSA, when we owe FMI $3,000 (retail) for the license for all those users. If we 'slice and dice' that server using virtualization, we actually lower the total number of users which that machine can handle (as the CPU has to run multiple operating systems and hypervisor stacks) but yet we pay 15 to 20 times more for our licensing just for the ability to isolate our users from each other as FileMaker requires a license of Server for each occurence of the operating system.


There is no 'simple' solution to this question, but ideally I would like the ability to purchase '10-packs' from FileMaker for virtual servers. The concept in a 10 pack is that they wouldn't compete with existing license options, which would hurt thier overall sales. These '10-packs' could have 25 users max, 10 files max, etc; basically 10% of the current limits and would cost in the same neighborhood as 'normal' FileMaker Server. It is common for most hosting companies to offer 'shared' hosting, but the controls to prevent a single client from 'dominating resources' is limited, as are several other key control systems. Instead of re-writing the Server SAT tool and other Server features, these issues could quickly be address with a new license type or '10-pack'.The addition of Adminstrator Groups in FileMaekr Server 11 is an indication that FileMaker understands that there is a need within the community, but we anxious to see what FileMaker may do to continue addressing these issues.


This would helpful for hosting companies, corporate IT departments which wish to separate their business units, or developers which need offer specialized setups (server-side plug-ins, custom IWP exit pages, etc) per solution. This would also help vertical market developers, as they could host multiple copies of the same solution without renaming. There are multiple advantages to this model, but the reason I like it is that it is simple. If you have read a Microsoft, Citrix, or vmWare price sheet recently; you will realize that simplicity is not common in enterprise license models.


There are other ideas to charge on a SaaS basis based on number of hours x number of hosted files (like Rackspace or Amazon). Another option is to charge per session- the list of options can go on and on. I have been told that internally FileMaker executives have discussed many of these issues, but as of yet we have not seen a change in FileMaker licesning in quite some time- with the exception of the AVLA licenses (which we like). I make this post, not to complain about license cost; but rather to discuss what type of licesning do other developers feel would help FileMaker compete more favorably while keeping revenue in line.