1 2 3 Previous Next 90 Replies Latest reply on Sep 7, 2015 7:41 AM by bigtom

    Reviving the case for Server on Linux

    johnnyb

      After some discussion on the 'Features for 14' thread, I'd like to state more clearly the case for a build of FileMaker Server for Linux.

       

      It's simple. Linux eliminates the costs of operating system licenses and provides tools for availability, management, and virtualization that are not available on Windows or Mac OS. Lowering the cost of deployment per instance raises the value of deploying multiple instances, and deploying multiple instances requires advanced tools for management and virtualization. It all fits together. And it contributes to better performance, higher availability, and better business continuity, thereby making users happy with their tools, happy with us developers, and happy with FileMaker as a product.

       

      I dream of rsyncing instance images back and forth for updates, replication, backup, and disaster recovery. I want to run Server on ZFS, the best filesystem available for the kind of data integrity critical to database applications. I want to dynamically allocate memory to different instances as needed (or not). I want to move instances from one host to another without even shutting them down. I want developers on my team to deploy new instances for testing or development from the command line, from images ready and standing by, or to give outside developers full access to whatever they need without putting the live solution at risk. I want to be able to spin up backups or fail-over images from off-site or on a laptop when a storm comes. I want to bring an instance to life at a remote site, perform some routine activity, and shut it down until it's needed again, freeing those resources for something else. And I want to do it all on cost-effective high-performance commodity servers with enough resources to host entire solutions out of RAM if I want, without having to stop and deal with OS licensing.

       

      I can do some of that on Mac and some of it on Windows, or I can do all of it on either with hours of work done by myself or a contractor and gobs of money, but if I could just get a binary executable built for the Linux kernel, I wouldn't have to. I would get a whole universe of awesome, right off the shelf.

       

      I don't mean FileMaker Server itself has to go open-source. There are plenty of proprietary, licensed applications that still run on Linux. Rendering software, engineering software, data modeling platforms, and business tools all run on Linux while charging a well-deserved licensing fee. But they're easy to deploy in bulk and manage as a fleet because the operating system is out of the way, where it would be an obstacle with Mac OS or Windows.

       

      With long-term-support releases and broader enterprise adoption than even just a few years ago, the risks to stability, performance, or security of running a production-class service on Linux are negligible. With the benefit of tools and techniques developed to run cloud applications, FileMaker Server could find itself in much larger production roles than are possible now. Access to FileMaker Server by the current crop of devops-style talent—which means access to Server using the tools developed for devops—could keep FileMaker Server relevant in an increasingly virtualized and orchestrated application-services sphere.

       

      But for me, today, let me build a service platform for my users that allows me to provide the resources they need to focus on the work they want to do, without being distracted by "what's the most powerful Mac I can afford to buy, and can I afford to buy a spare" or "Who do I talk to about buying more Windows Server licenses, and how many CPUs am I allowed to have." Server doesn't have to be stuck in the corner on a Windows VM or a Mac Mini. There's no reason it couldn't live and thrive in the same environment as virtually every other service I provide, free of the cost and infrastructure overhead of Windows or Mac OS.

       

      Where FileMaker Server is the right tool for the job, it seems to me that Linux is the right tool for hosting it. Could the reasons not to run it on Linux even be that good?

        • 1. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
          bigtom

          This does not seem like a bad idea, but seeing as FMI is having trouble keeping up with development for Windows and OSX I do not see how they can support it. Hopefully they will figure out that getting FileMaker in the hands of more people is going to be a good thing.

           

          I think one of the reasons why there is not a Linux version is that they have no expectation of what the OS will be exactly and how it may interact with certain hardware. I suppose they could start off with recommendations that FMS will work with "X" flavor of Linux on certain sets of hardware. This would be a major support issue for them. They already have trouble with the hackintosh crowd for a couple of reasons.

           

          I have IT friends in the medium size business to enterprise business arena that deal with databases all the time. A while ago I was asked what I am using. The response I got was "FileMaker...? I think I had heard of that once." These people have been in the business for a long time and that really shows how FMI is not really reaching people. The next question I get is "It can run on Linux right?" They really have so many clients that have been building their solutions around Linux servers and are happy with what they have in terms of hardware. They love how it looks and how it works when I show it off but they just do not feel their customers would make the change if they need to buy new hardware or deal with Microsoft. The other major downer is the window in window situation with Windows OS clients.

           

          Just my experience though.

           

          If I could reasonably run a Linux server with FileMaker on it I might be doing more outside work with Filemaker Solutions. All my web servers are Linux and have been for years. They always work. This OSX for FileMaker Server is not so happy and has too many quirks. Needs rebooting way too often, but it is worth it in the end I guess.

          • 2. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
            Mike Duncan

            It has been a long time since FileMaker offered a server version for linux, and in that time the product has changed quite a bit. Now there is more integration with the OS if you are using external authentication, then where do you set up users and groups, manage open directory, install ODBC drivers for ESS, etc... Are these standard in most distros?

             

            Even so, I could see it being worthwhile especially considering the cost savings of spinning up cloud based servers to run on an as needed basis, but you can already do this in Win. I would be interested in a linux server version, but I realize I am probably in a minority. I also would not want it at the cost of resources better spent elsewhere.

            • 3. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
              gibbsjoh
              Yes yes and yes! Just throwing in my 2c.   I've been longing for a Linux version for ages for exactly the reasons johnnyb puts forward.  Anyone want to get a petition going (for what it's worth!)?
              • 4. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                gibbsjoh
                I suspect they'd pick 1 or 2 distros and officially support those (if they were to do it at all). Redhat and Ubuntu spring to mind.
                • 5. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                  monkeybreadsoftware

                  The disto for linux should not be the big problem.

                   

                  If FileMaker says, you could install Distro X on a 64bit Intel based Linux with a list of required packages and have a server working, that would be great. I bet soon Amazon EC2 could be used to host thousands of FM Servers.

                  • 6. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                    Mike Duncan

                    Christian, that would be nice, even in windows, to have a pre-configured image to make it very easy to roll out.

                     

                    For example, adobe flash streaming server is a pre-configured option that was very easy to set up, and amazon had a subscription type license that went back to adobe. Very easy to spin one up as needed and very cost effective. Seeing FileMaker Server in the list of available servers to spin up would be very cool!

                    • 7. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                      johnnyb

                      The various conventional distros share just a handful of common ancestors, differentiated primarily by init styles and package managers. There wouldn't be an enormous need to support an intimidating number of distros as long as at least two are relatively well supported. There's the Fedora world of RedHat and CentOS that gets you yum and rpm for package management, and there's the Debian world of Ubuntu and Debian itself, which gets you apt and dpkg for package management. Most other niche distros are based on one of these. Both do SysV-style rc.d init scripts, with some flavor variations, although there is development underway for moving both to systemd-style init.

                       

                      That said, SuSE is popular among European projects, owing perhaps to its strong German roots. I would hazard a guess that FileMaker customers in Europe might value some attention to this distro. And on the horizon is CoreOS, which is aimed at public and private cloud datacenters. It doesn't have a package manager, but is designed to run docker containers instead. It uses systemd for init already.

                       

                      Docker containers, by the way, simplify deployment for exactly FileMaker Server's kind of application. A docker container is a kind of hybrid package/vm that bundles up the required binaries and support libraries, specifies networking interfaces and firewall rules, and puts everything else required for the application into a neat bundle that can be moved around between any host that supports Docker. It automatically does whatever virtualization is required to create a uniform environment for the application so that the application itself need not know or care what system it's running on. I wouldn't expect docker containers to come directly from FMI, but I can say that I would most likely be building containers for FMS myself in my own deployments.

                       

                      So yeah, I suspect the packaging problem is relatively easy to solve for FMI. And then the instance management problem would be relatively easy to solve for a hosting provider as well, particularly if they're comfortable with something like docker.

                      • 8. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                        johnnyb

                        Maybe you could share more on this. I'm curious where you're coming from.

                         

                        External authentication and users and groups come by virtue of LDAP, which is a standard protocol independent of the underlying operating system. It sounds like you're making use of OS X Server's Open Directory service, which is great, but the integration comes thanks to LDAP, which doesn't depend on OS X itself. Integration with Windows Active Directory comes via LDAP too. You wouldn't have to find a Linux LDAP server if you didn't want to. And if you did, well, there's OpenLDAP and FreeIPA. FMS could bind with any of these for users and groups.

                         

                        Similarly, ODBC and ESS would be between FMS itself and whatever your external data source is. Again, these are generally interoperable regardless of which is running on which platform. You could have an SQL server running on the same machine or on a different machine, on the same OS or on a different OS, and ESS should work in the same way.

                         

                        In any case, I wouldn't assume you are in the minority.

                         

                        There's a chicken-and-egg problem here. No doubt, everyone's running on OS X or Windows and is comfortable enough with it, but that's only because Linux is not currently an option. So while it doesn't seem like there's a need now, that feeling could be illusory, simply because we're all doing what we have to do to get by with what we have.

                         

                        What matters more is the chance that there is a silent majority that would sooner deploy FMS on linux than on other platforms, and that FMS adoption could accelerate if a linux option were available. I see high potential value for enterprise customers, resellers, hosting providers, solution providers… the whole ecosystem really, or at least all but the smallest of installations. The potential seems like far more than a minority, to me at least.

                         

                        Or, put another way, what's the balance of people who want Server but who would object to running it on linux, against the people who want Server but who object to setting up a Mac or Windows VM? This is where we can only guess at what FMI knows about the market. But I wonder if it isn't worth another look, and I wouldn't rely on five-year-old assumptions. As you say, a lot has changed.

                        • 9. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                          jfletch

                          Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Ubuntu, SUSE, or Red Hat. They already have a distro for a Unix-like system (Mac), so how hard would it be? An advantage of that is that the OSs are mostly free, robust, and easy to deploy in VMs. Perhaps THEN we can get around to a discussion of clustering FMS.

                          • 10. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                            robear

                            I completely agree Johnny, and applaud the openness to share the benefits of FMServer on a Linux platform.

                            • 11. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                              robear

                              Hi Mike, when did FMI ever offer a FileMaker version on Linux?

                              • 12. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                                jfletch

                                To be clear the subject here is SERVER on Linux. It would be even more unlikely that FileMaker would ever hit Linux.

                                • 13. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                                  jfletch

                                  I meant we're not likely to see FileMaker PRO on Linux.

                                  • 14. Re: Reviving the case for Server on Linux
                                    jfletch

                                    Back in Medieval times (~5.5) there was a server version that ran on Linux.

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