I'm spending weekends this month taking a Microsoft SQL Server developer class. I can say installation and setting things up sure are easier on FileMaker. And doing things like change a file's schema is a lot less daunting than in MS SQL Server. Some of the more complicated processes may be why MS SQL is more scalable, but this class just makes me appreciate FileMaker more and more.
Some interesting things, Mathamaticians and Scientists may appreciate that FileMaker can handle larger numbers (10^400 verses 10^308). Also, it is interesting that in one of the most common numeric formats for SQL Server, DECIMAL, it has rouding error issues. If you take 1, divide it by 3 and then multiply it by 3, you get 0.99999999.... If you do this in FileMaker, you get the correct answer of 1. Tell this to a financial institution that does many many calculations and they will get worried about the accumulation of rouding errors, which is quite a valid concern.
FileMaker can go backwards further on dates than SQL Server, but there is always ambiguity over which calendar date you are using, Gregorian or Julian. SQL Server does have a lot more field types, particularly number types. And while this may be beneficial to the underlying processing, it is mostly just limiting to the developer and reduces flexibility.
Many of us know, one of the fairly unique features of FileMaker is having fields that are calculation fields. For those of us that work mostly in FileMaker, we tend to forget how wonderful this is. Granted there are issues with calculations resulting in performance problems if not properly developed, but it still is a nice feature that we take for granted.
I always have a hard time remembering that MS SQL Server is just a backend and while it is great at quickly providing results, it does not help you when it comes to how you really want to see the information. That is not what a SQL Server developer does and they leave the front end to web developers or Access developers or other front end products. As a FileMaker solution, my clients want the entire solution and I have found that this is expected of FileMaker developers. No one expects a FileMaker developer to just do schema design and not anything with layouts. But that is exactly a SQL Server developer does and is expected commercially. I hope our FileMaker customers appreciate that a FileMaker developer does more than a SQL Server developer does for them.
Well, I have completed 1 of the 4 weekly classes and will report back as I learn more. I was even daring enough to wear a FileMaker shirt there <grin>. The purpose of taking this class is to help more with clients that need FileMaker to integrate with SQL Server and this is becoming a common request. I have no intention of abandoning FileMaker as my primary development tool. But it is still good to know the competition and learn strengths, and weaknesses, of FileMaker so that I can make good software recommendations to business clients.
One last comment... the class we are being taught in is from a book that just recently also came out as an eBook. So in this class of about 75, there must have been about 20 people there with iPads for going through the book with the instructor. These are die hard Microsoft developers and I was amazed that so many would have an iPad. If I could only do a quick demo on how easy it is to get a FileMaker database up and running on an iPad.