I will avoid contrasting MacOS X into this conversation because that is an 'old' argument which does not appear to have changed significantly with FileMaker Server 13; however, FileMaker Server 13 is the first version of FileMaker Server to be certidfied for Server 2012. Many of you realize that FileMaker Server 12 was not certified and had issues with correctly configuing the Web Publishing engine, so this is the first time that we can consider Microsoft Server 2012 for a prodction server.
I will go ahead and 'spill the beans' and state that we have been testing with Server 2012 and are very excited about being about to utilize Microsoft's first 'cloud-entric' version of Windows Server. The reason that we are posting is that none of us have much experaince with FileMaker Server 13 and Server 2012, so we wanted to share our experainces and get feedback and comments.
For those who know me, I tend to jump from topic to topic, so I will attempt to organize my thoughts my 'resource type' below:
Our FileMaker 12/ Server 2008R2 systems typically go into deployment with almost 15GB of used drive space, before our clients upload the first FileMaker database or establish backups. In Windows Server 2003, most any change in configuration required the installation media and Microsoft was rebuked for this practice. In Server 2008, they took the oppsoite tack. All the CAB files to install any of the Server roles are installed with every installation. If an admin delete these files, Windows see a 'corrupted' installation- although these files where not in use.
In Server 2012, these files can be removed. Should an admin wish to add one of these roles or features then insteading of using local CAB files, Server 2012 has the ability to connect to media or use Windows Update to supply these resources. The results from our initial testing is that we can get the 'footprint' of a FileMaker Server 13 down to about 4GB of hard drive space. We offer SSD drives in most of our datacenters through Storage Area Networks, which results in expensive drive space. Saving over 10GBs of space per server with very little 'downside' is positive thing.
Drives mapped as Folders
Most of our SANs have multilpe shevles of drives, and in most cases we have different types of drives in each SAN: SSD, 15K SAS, 10K SAS, and SATA drives. Now that FileMaker 13 gives use the ability to map 'external Containers' to a separate folder, it is easier for us to configure a system which uses SSD drives for FileMaker data and SATA for container data. Our initial testing shows us that having container on SSD provides little performance benefit; however, allowing Container data to reside on SATA drives (still RAID-6) saves money, as SSD space is roughly four times more expensive as SSD. This could be done manually on a limited basis with Server 2008, but now we can support this feature 'server-wide'.
Although not new improved for FileMaker 13, we also use SATA drives mapped as folders for backups. This allows us to utilize default FileMaker file paths while utilizing the most appropiate drives while also separating production files and backups to different drive systems for improved protection.
Windows Server 2008 introduced a command line interface which basically made a server look like a Linux server. The only problem is that if you installed this 'interface-less' version, the admin had to set all the settings via PowerShell or the command line. Launching something like the Java Admin Console was not possible, nor where several other common Windows resources.
New for Windows Server 2012 is the ability to turn the GUI interface on or off; there is also a 'limited' interface mode; so we can test and configure a server with all the tools we are use to and then 'turn off' the GUI interface. This allows more of the system resources for FileMaker Server, and it significantly improves security as many exploits are based on the user interfaces. Likewise, many of the Windows updates which require restarts are the one's which have interface associated with them, so the command line mode reduces the restarts requires for system updates.
Most users read the 'command-line only' option and jsut can't imagine not having a GUI; however, new in Server 2012 is a 'dashboard' which will allow a single Server 2012 to control other Server 2012 machines, so for most operations, you can have the GUI installed only on one server and allow the others to run in a more stable, more effecicent configuration. The new daskboard also allows an admin to setup there own alerts. One of the issues that our users have is that they complete fill there drive space and FileMaker Server shuts down. Now it is very simple to create an alert which constantly monitors all the other FileMaker Servers and provides a warning.
The default alerts are useful to see if a machine generates an error, as 'no one' that we know every parses server log entries looking for minor issues. Most admins don't look until a problem presents itself. Comparing to Server 2008, there where many tools to faciliate similar functionality, including Microsofr System Center; however, most FileMaker Server admins where not looking for these 'enterprise-level' tools. Now we have a very simple way to manage groups of servers.
For years Citrix owned the 'terminal services' market, but with each new version of Windows Server, Microsoft has closed the gap. Server 2012 includes a new version of the RDP protocol which is about 20% faster than 2008R2. We have not compared this performance directly with the new XenApp, but it is getting very close and the Microsoft solution costs about half of what Citirx charges. Windows 7 & 8, MacOS X, iOS, and Android users are all capable of utilizing these improved services with 'free' clients.
Windows 8 also has the ability share RemoteApp connections in a new app, making it easier for 'notive' users to utilize this technology.
Essentails (formerally Small Business Server)
In 2008, Microsoft offered a version for small businesses; however, these services largely assume that all the users where on the same network or LAN. Server 2012 Essentials offers many of these same services in a more 'cloud-like' architecture, so setting up a FileMaker Server which also acts as a company file server, update server, secuirty server, backup server for desktops/ laptops, etc. is now a very practical and inexpensive option. Large companies typically dedicate dedicated to each of these services, but for small companies the cost of multilpe system is just not practical.
Although Apple has not significantly enhanced AppleScript in years. Microsoft added 1,600 cmdlets for PowerShell 3, compared to PowerShell 2 which shipped with 2008. All the 'dashboards' in Server 2012 utilize PowerShell on the backend, so just like looking at HTML, a developer can easilty 'see' the code required to perform almost any Windows operation. The are also PowerShell libraries to add all kinds of other functionality. Microsoft seems to be very committed to this technology, therefore many Microsoft software developers are also creating there own PowerShell CLIs.
As FileMaker developers, this means that we can use FileMaker to create and/or trigger a PowerShell script and control the operating system and/or many popular Windows applications. It is doubtful that Microsoft will ever create a FileMaker plug-in, nor Citrix, nor vnWare; but through PowerShell 3.0 FileMaker can control these environments.
There are huge improvements in Hyper-V, Storage Server, and other features which go beyond the discussion of FileMaker Server, but are very committed towards utilizing these two technologies together. For those who are causious of 'new' software. Server 2012 is almost two years old and last summer the R2 versions where released with many improvements, including the return of the Start menu.
I'm guessing that many of you which have gotten this far have any doubt that we are becoming fans of 2012 compared to 2008 or 2008R2. One of the reasons that we are posting is that as we test FileMaker with Server 2012, we keep discovering things and/or running into issues. Since this combination is so new, there are very few resources to address these challenges. We would like to encourage other TechNet members to test Server 2012 (for the reasons stated above) and share you comments here.
Additionally, as you have questions in your own deployments; we are happy to share knowledge. The more FileMaker Server installations utilize Server 2012, the easier it should become to find answers to many our questions...
Lastly, Microsoft's annual non-developer conference is called TechEd. About half of the TechEd 2013 sessions from New Orleans are included as videos on the Microsoft Ch9 website. This is one of the better (free) resources we have found. Specifically, the session on removing un-used CAB resources mentioned above is posted on that site. Microsoft also has a 90 day trial version of their Server products, so that you can 'kick the tires' prior to investing 'real money' into a new technology. Alternately, all FileMaker 13 Worldcloud servers will run Server 2012, so you can always allow Worldcloud to provide you with your own Windoes Server 2012 environment.