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    FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2


      Late last week, I decided to experiment with running FMS13 on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service. I was curious to see what the performance would be like, and what the cost would be. Here's what I found...


      I ended up setting up two instances, both running Windows Server 2012, in Amazon's US East (Northern Virginia) Region. (Note that I'm based in Richmond, Virginia.)


      The first instance was an "m1.large" configuration with 4 ECUs, 2vCPUs, 7.5Gb Memory, 2 x 420 Gb storage, and Moderate network performance. Performance for clients connecting with Pro and Go seemed to be about the same as I had been getting with FileMaker Server 12. Performance over WebDirect was decent, but still a little slow.


      I then setup a second instance, an "m1.xlarge" configuration with 8 ECUs, 4vCPUs, 15Gb Memory, 4 x 420 Gb storage, and High network performance. Performance for all clients - including WebDirect - is just insanely fast. It is the kind of speed / responsiveness that I've always wanted for Pro and Go clients, where it actually feels as though the database is hosted locally. And the kind of response that I'm seeing over WebDirect is what I think many of us are looking for. It still feels different, and a little awkward - but at least it works.


      The "gotcha" with EC2 is its cost. The "m1.large" instance costs $0.364 per instance hour, which works out to around $270 per month. The "m1.xlarge" instance costs $0.728 per instance hour, which works out to around $540 per month. (If I could get the "m1.xlarge" instance at the "m1.large" price, I'd be thrilled!)


      Anyway, I just thought I'd share hoping that it might help others, and maybe get a conversation started about EC2.


      -- Tim

        • 1. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

          I believe amazon offers discounts if you commit to a certain length contract (12 or 18 months, forget how long). This helps offset the cost if you make a long term commitment.

          • 2. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

            Mike --


            Good point!


            You can "reserve" an EC2 instance with either a one year or three year commitment. You pay an up-front fee, and then get significantly reduced "per instance hour" rates. Details are here: https://aws.amazon.com/ec2/reserved-instances/buyer/


            Based on that "m1.xlarge" configuration that I mentioned above, and using the Windows / Heavy Utilization Reserved Instances pricing, for a one-year commitment the cost works out to around $345 / month. (On a three-year commitment it is right around $262 / month.)


            -- Tim

            • 3. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

              Note that we offer virtual dedicated servers, specifically tuned for FileMaker performance (read: fast SANs, top of the line network connections, etc.), without any of the ECU hubbub, network performance limiting, hourly usage, etc. that Amazon plays with.  We've got quite a number of folks up and running on FMS13 using WebDirect already with success.


              Contact me either here via private message or via email to jmay(at)pointinspace.com for further info.


              - John

              • 4. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                I've had a client setup with an FM12 server on Amazon EC2 since July 2012. Using an m1.medium instance type, the (perceived but untested) speeds have been comparable, or faster than virtual machines offered by two other FileMaker hosting companies. The deciding factors for moving to EC2 was redundancy and control. Using powershell scripts, I've been able to backup both the data and entire virtual machine image within the same region and another region (ie: data center in another state). This setup allows us to recover from a complete data center outage, to data no older than an hour, all within a few hours time.


                It's worth noting that I've played with all types of RAIDed EBS volumes for storing the hosted database files, but no setup compared to the speed available from the local instance storage. I didn't test with provisioned storage, so you may be able to get better speeds with that, but I suspect the cost would be at least $200/month before you reach the speeds available from the local instance storage.

                • 5. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                  Hi, I appreciate this is an older thread, however I am looking to move our Server infrastructure onto AWS and the advice from Amazon is to look at starting with a segregated project. And as I am lookig at developing a series of Filemaker DB's, this seems like a good opportunity.


                  I was wondering if anyone had looked at the new Memory optimized configuartions - http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/instance-types/


                  I am happy to have a play with a few different instances, especially as this is so easy with AWS, but would be interested on anyones suggestions as to the best way to balance the server.

                  • 6. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                    richard@itech wrote:


                    ... the advice from Amazon is to look at starting with a segregated project.


                    I'm not sure what you mean by this. Can you explain or provide a link to this advice?


                    I don't think anybody else will be able to tell you what instancy type will work best for you (without getting detailed information about your hosting requirements). For example, I suspect the Memory optimized instances may be useful if you have really large databases and need a huge cache. On the other hand, if you want to use Web Direct, then these instances might not have enough CPU for you.


                    I would recommend starting small, then increasing the instance size as needed. To give you a point of reference, I was using an m1.medium instance in production with a max of 50 concurrent connections and ~50 database files with a total size of ~3GB. This setup performed pretty well, but now I'm testing a c3.large instance which has 3.5x the CPU and SSD drives, for only slightly more cost. In my setup, I've found that increasing cache over 1GB didn't make any difference to my cache hit %, which allowed me to get by with an instance with less memory.


                    I'd also recommend using VPC rather than Classic environment, so you can add additional servers, for WPE or Cirix, for example.

                    • 7. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                      Richard --


                      I agree with what Dan said - it is difficult to give you advice without knowing your hosting requirements. If you can tell us a little more about what you are trying to do, we might be able to help.


                      What I can tell you is that since my original post back in early January, the configuration that I had settled on (an "m1.xlarge" configuration with 8 ECUs, 4vCPUs, 15Gb Memory, 4 x 420 Gb storage, and High network performance) has proven to be very successful. I have been amazed at the performance that we are getting, and we have had no downtime whatsoever. Many of my clients have even mentioned to me how much faster things are. In fact, things have been so successful that I just finished migrating all of my hosting clients to EC2, and I have pulled the plug on our dedicated Mac-based servers.


                      I am surprised at how enthusiastic I am about EC2. You see, in the past I have been strongly oppossed to using virtual servers in general, and especially for hosting FileMaker. However, I am glad that I explored EC2. My only concern at this point is the price, although I do believe that in this case you truly get what you pay for.


                      -- Tim

                      • 8. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2
                        Paul Jansen



                        All very interesting.  Thanks for keeping us updated.  Very interesting that you have moved from physical OSX servers to virtual Windows servers....


                        I have a couple of questions...


                        How do you manage backups in this kind of environment?

                        What sort of firewall protection have you implemented?





                        • 9. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                          Hi PJ.


                          "How do you manage backups in this kind of environment?"


                          I backup locally using what Amazon refers to as EBS (Elastic Block Store) volumes.  Think of these as virtual drives that can be connected to EC2 instances. With EBS volumes, the backups happen very quickly. Also, should I ever need to recover using another EC2 instance, I can simply detach an EBS volume from the problematic EC2 instance and attach it to a new instance.


                          I backup remotely using DropBox. I have DropBox running as a service, and have special FMS backup jobs in place which save to DropBox periodically. In addition, I have signed up for DropBox's Packrat option, so I can recover from very, very old backups should I ever need to. (At this point I can recover from a backup that was created as far back as the spring of 2012.)


                          Some of my clients want direct access to their backups. For them, I create special backup jobs which save to shared folders in DropBox.



                          "What sort of firewall protection have you implemented?"


                          I actually have dual firewalls in place, and both are software-based.


                          The first one is built into EC2. Amazon supports "security groups" which essentially act as firewalls and control traffic to EC2 instances. Security groups are very easy to setup and maintain, and once you have one configured you can use it to protect multiple EC2 instances.


                          The second firewall is the one built into Windows Server 2012. I'd like to say that the Windows firewall has improved over the years, but it is still the mess that it has always been. In any case, it does work.



                          Let me know if you have any other questions.


                          -- Tim

                          • 10. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                            Hi there - late to the party...


                            Can anyone share what the price per year actually is? I worked on 24/7 but of course most people are "normal businesses" open 9 hours a day - 5-6 days a week and even then (taking out public holidays etc) it would (per hour) it would be less again. I am disadvatanged due to the prices on AWS being $US etc. ( I have 3 med size databases of about 4GB each - medium usage )


                            Furthermore - NZ is a LONG way from USA!


                            But yeah - just curious on the actual cost over time in running AWS.


                            Thanks for reading.




                            • 11. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                              Firstly, there is a AWS presence is Sydney. That's spitting distance

                              from NZ.


                              The cost varies with your needs and your usage. If you have an EC2

                              instance you probably need block storage too. That's their version of an

                              SSD or an HD. Then you'll probably want to use S3 for short-term backups

                              (S3 is cheaper than block storage) and Glacier for long term backups

                              (Glacier is cheaper than S3).


                              It's all charged by the hour, so it looks cheap, but they bill by the

                              month. Multiply the hourly costs by 672 to get a monthly cost.



                              • 12. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                                Thanks Malcolm - appreciate that.


                                There are many stories about the speed (being so good) but the cost crops up now and then!

                                • 13. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                                  Another daft question...


                                  As far as I know - they give you what amounts to your own virtual "space" with an OS running on it - and you can install what u want right? Obviously I am referring to FMS13.


                                  But in essences you use Remote Desktop and dial in and control it like a normal Server that is sitting on a shelf next door right?


                                  If so - it actually sounds pretty ideal for one of the solutions I wish to deploy...

                                  Thank you


                                  • 14. Re: FileMaker Server 13 on Amazon EC2

                                    Yes, it's a VM sitting on their servers. The OS can be Windows or *nix.

                                    Apple's virtualisation licencing prevents it being used. Pity. If you

                                    are going to run FMS then your choice is one of the Windows Servers.



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