The VM issue - FileMaker Server 10-11 and indeed 12 - Discussion

Discussion created by CarstenLevin on Apr 14, 2013
Latest reply on Apr 14, 2017 by wimdecorte

We do know of Virtual Machines which is working really fine with FileMaker Server. But we do also meet VM's and IT departments where the marriage of FileMaker and VM is not one made in heaven.


The issue is wery often performance with as little as from 40-70 users. Where the same solution performed great with many many more users on the dedicated server.


And then the IT departments will ask us, typically after deployment: "Can we use virtual servers" - typically Windows 2008 - for FileMaker, our answer is:

"If your virtual server is performing as good with FileMaker as the dedicated hardware and software, not only in vitro, but in real life conditions, then the answer is yes!"


This is of course not really a fair answer, or is it?


The point is that the VM experts/IT departments do often claim that their environment is setup to perform even better than dedicated hardware, and then the trouble starts.

We have heard of many problems with MS SQL, MySQL and Oracle systems in VM environments. And we have heard of and met problems with FIleMaker Servers on VM's. As well as servers running fine for years.


We always try to explain that: "The reference is a well configured fast dedicated server."

If something is wrong, a bottleneck in the disk i/o, data/processor i/o, network i/o or some other bottleneck, this is not something we can help you with, from a FileMaker Server Perspective. It is the VM that has to perform as the dedicated server.


We do have issues where the IT of large corporations are comming to us when FileMaker is performing awfull in their VM envirionment. We have seen two types of bad performance, but probably with more than two types of causes. While FileMaker is performing bad:

  1. The Processor is nearly not having any load.
  2. The Processor is heavely loaded, more than 100%


In some cases it is badly designed database solutions (FileMaker developers who are self taught and believe that being able to build with FileMaker is the same as being able to build real business solutions for many users. But in many cases it is because setting up VM's is a very complex task. And there are very few real experts.


What do we do then?
They are always either:

  • Asking: "Why is FileMaker not performing.How should we set up the virtual machine?"
  • Telling: "Our VM is a perfect setup. Why is FileMaker not performing?", Assuming that there is something wrong with FileMaker.


If the solution was previously running fine from a dedicated server, then the issue is most probably problems within the VM environment. Have a look at:

  • Disk I/O
  • Network I/O
  • everything else I/O

The problem with solving the problem is that we have seen fine FIleMaker solutions that was used by more than 100 users without problems on dedicated servers, but running slow and with long pauses on VM's. While at the same time the Windows OS activity monitors for processor and I/O indicated that the server had no problems.


Now have a look at the FIleMaker Server statistics. Here we will often see that there are long waits for access to data I/O. Very inconsistent with the VM OS measurement!


If we know that the solution is running perfect and fast on a dedicated server, then the conclusion is that whatever the IT/VM experts says, their VM is not performing.

The Dedicated Server is, in our opinion, the reference.


And then the questions arrives: How should a virtual environment be set up for FileMaker. And since we are not VM experts we will have to answer: "It has to be set up in an way that ensures that FileMaker Server and the users are getting the same performance as they do on the dedicated server".


But I would like to be able to come up with better suggestions or even with a best practice document by FileMaker or somebody else.


What are your experiences, what is your advice?


Best regards



PS. There is a major difference between FileMaker Server pre 12 and 12. 12 is 64 bit while previous versions was 32 bit. This is very important in the virtual environment as well.


Small bibliography with references to the issue - but none really addressing the issue