April 23, 2007

And then there is FileMaker

Chris Kubica of Application Architects, LLC is a big FileMaker fan. And there are of course reviews and articles that agree with him, although when FileMaker sponsored this white paper they did not choose an author famed for the independence of his analysis.

So should FileMaker be included on my list of midrange OLTP DBMS or not?

Comments

20 Responses to “And then there is FileMaker”

  1. Chris Kubica on April 23rd, 2007 10:20 pm

    (This is what I’d originally sent to Curt about the upsides of FileMaker. CDMK.)

    Well,

    (Sorry, this reply is a little long)

    Yes, it is fully relational and SQL-compliant. It can send out queries and bring back data from outside data sources of any kind (on the client and server-side…FileMaker Pro can be its own mini-server for very small workgroups of 5 users or less) assuming you have those DNSs installed on the client or server and it can itself BE a data source to other RDBMSs via ODBC/JDBC as well as XML/XSLT. It also has had a public beta out for some time for a PHP API that is about to go “real”.

    Regarding referential integrity (RI), the short answer is “just fine.” The long answer is since FileMaker is meant for one-person operations all the way UP to medium-big workgroups, not a lot of the relational rules are set in stone…you can turn them on or off at your pleasure. I think this is a good thing, actually, as it allows a lot of control to the developer. Having said that, you can enforce with the available tools…you can allow deletes based on conditional privileges (like: do I have child records? If no, no dice) as well as set up cascading deletes to avoid orphans.

    A few other tidbits…FileMaker has an Instant Web Publishing feature that no other DBs to my knowledge (literally a one checkbox push to the Web), it can save directly to PDF, Excel (and then auto mail merge attachments to as many e-mails as you wish)…Since version 7.0 (they are in 8.5 now) you can build actual “separation model” systems where there is an empty GUI front end and a pure data back end (and a business logic layer, if you like), FileMaker is 100% cross-platform, very scalable, doesn’t take a computer science degree to learn to use (I’m a theatre major turned FileMaker consultant) and is a true rapid app. Development tool that is cheap to build and maintain (see attached white paper, especially the tables on pages 10-11).

    I could blather on, but if you’d at least consider bringing it to the conversation from time to time, I’d truly appreciate it. It is a very viable platform. I don’t work for FileMaker, but am a rather satisfied customer/developer.

    Thanks for reading!

    Sincerely,

    Chris Kubica

    President, Founder
    Application Architects, LLC
    Research Triangle Headquarters
    (P) 888-896-4608
    (F) 888-896-4608

    Certified FileMaker Developer

    FDA, Part 11, GxP, HIPAA and SOX Compliance Experts

  2. Chris Kubica on April 23rd, 2007 10:23 pm

    So, yes, please include FileMaker products in the discussion, please. I’ll be a panelist. :)

  3. Oliver Reid on April 23rd, 2007 10:51 pm

    Filemaker is well suited for small to moderate scale database applications, and offers the advantage that highly user friendly and effective solutions can be developed very quickly and at low cost. It is a very viable back end for web applications and enables tight integration of an an in-office database application and providing elements of that applications functionality via the web. E.g. http://www.cooperss.com.

    Filemaker’s core database engine is versatile and highly functional, but it simply not as fast as the leading SQL database products: Oracle, etc. It cannot respond to complex queries at the same kind of speed, and if much more than 100 or so concurrent users are envisaged it may not be the best choice: something Filemaker Inc. would be the first to tell you. It is not positioned as a competitor to these products for large scale applications.

    However there is a large “sweet spot” in the market place where raw processing power is not the issue but the cost and time to complete a sophisticated and user friendly database application are. In this arena FileMaker, in the hands of well schooled database designer, is a category-killing product.

    FileMaker is not just a product for SOHO do-it-yourself-ers any more – although it still serves that niche very nicely thank you.

  4. Mark Woytovich on April 23rd, 2007 11:00 pm

    Yes include FileMaker.
    FileMaker’s fast initial development cycle and little to zero-impact modification/update/upgrade/tweek-ability make it a perfect tool for many enterprise clients. It meets your bullet list of requirements swimingly:
    • Most web-facing apps.
    • Most departmental apps.
    • All the processing at a typical medium or small enterprise.
    Plus it (natively) plays nice with XML, Excel and most email apps and has powerful extensibility via a host of 3rd party plug-ins.

  5. John DeMillion on April 24th, 2007 9:54 am

    I believe that FileMaker should be included in any consideration of serious database software. I’m a software/database developer (B.S. CompSci) turned IT Director over the last 20 years, and having developed systems using dBase II/III, FoxPro, Access, VB, etc, over that time, I’ve slowly recognized the significant benefits of FileMaker as it matured from a single-user DOS-based database in the 1980s into an incredible, full-featured professional development tool. I’ve transitioned most of my organization over to FileMaker development and the benefits are enormous.

    There are a few things that need to be addressed in the product, namely direct manipulation of SQL tables on the server as if they were local FileMaker tables (a la Access) and an object messaging architecture with truly dynamic objects. Both are rumored to be coming and when they do there will simply be no competition in the market for what FileMaker is able to do. Even without those needed capabilities, it bests the other systems in my opinion on a number of fronts.

    I’d encourage any database professional that wants to be significantly more productive and create systems that are extremely flexible and maintainable to check out the FileMaker demo available on their website. There are some conceptual differences to get used to for the developer accustomed to other systems, but once past those mental hurdles, it’s a truly amazing tool, either as a complement to, or as a replacement for, other database development environments.

    John DeMillion
    Director of Information Technology
    Chester County IU

  6. Eric Jungemann on April 24th, 2007 10:38 am

    Yes it should. It has won many major database awards (Codie, PC Mag Editors choice, MacWorld 5 Stars, PC World World Class, etc.). It has over 10 million licenses and is used by all large school districts and most of the Fortune 500. We use it and love the design tools, server stability, ease of use, connectivity (including JDBC/ODBC/XML etc.), add on products, plug-ins, rich and friendly developer community and top notch vendor support. It also has great dual platform support (Mac/PC). We have also used Oracle, SQL Server, Access, NonStop SQL and prefer FileMaker for up to 250 user systems (and we can expand beyond that with server synchronization). Curt, I’d be happy to go over this in more detail with you if you’d like.

    Eric Jungemann
    General Partner
    InfoMatrix, LLC
    http://www.vetfm.com
    http://www.infomatrix-usa.com

  7. Jeff Johnson on April 24th, 2007 1:07 pm

    The only item I have to add to Chris’ comments is about Filemaker’s reliability. Most DB systems measure up-time in minutes, days, weeks. I have Filemaker solutions that have gone years, and with two, a decade. Hardware will go wonky, but Filemaker hangs tough.

  8. Matt Tolman on April 24th, 2007 1:39 pm

    Yes, I work at a Fortune 500 company, and we employ a wide range of databases. I have a computer science degree, and have worked with many databases including 4D, Access, SQL, DBase, Oracle, and Filemaker. Most of our databases are SQL, but there are some instances where Filemaker is the best tool for the job in situations where the data is going to be for a smaller group of

  9. Matt Tolman on April 24th, 2007 1:42 pm

    Looks like my previous comment got cut off (seems the less than symbol is not supported). Here is a second try at reposting.

    Yes, I work at a Fortune 500 company, and we employ a wide range of databases. I have a computer science degree, and have worked with many databases including 4D, Access, SQL, DBase, Oracle, and Filemaker. Most of our databases are SQL, but there are some instances where Filemaker is the best tool for the job in situations where the data is going to be for a smaller group of less than 250 people. As such it is still an enterprise tool because it can be fully integrated with the SQL databases that are being accessed by thousands of end users, and has all of the security options, and relational abilities found in enterprise databases.

  10. Kevin Mullins on April 25th, 2007 12:56 am

    Considering the subject of your panel and the current install base of Filemaker in the exact demographic you’re focusing on, your list would be inadequate without Filemaker. Filemaker isn’t perfect, it will never, in my opinion, a good database back end for any major internet sites, but in the specific demographic you are focused on the web capabilities of the server and stand alone application are unmatched for their robustness and simplicity. With any mySQL, or MSSQL solution you need both a database developer and a web developer to deploy a solid intranet solution. With Filemaker you simply need the database developer and let Filemaker handle the web development.

    With all that said I would simply like to see Filemaker compared to other database applications focused on this demographic.

  11. Curt Monash on April 26th, 2007 12:26 am

    Thanks guys!!

    And I’m sorry all the comments hit moderation first.

    If somebody from the company contacts me, I’ll be glad to listen to what they have to say. Anybody care to nudge them? ;)

    Best,

    CAM

  12. Chris Kubica on April 26th, 2007 12:24 pm

    Curt, so what have you decided?

  13. Kevin Mallon on April 26th, 2007 3:21 pm

    Hi Curt,

    Consider me nudged! We’d be happy to arrange a time to discuss FileMaker Pro software products with you. Please let me know a few dates and times that work for you.

    Kevin Mallon
    Public Relations Mgr
    FileMaker
    kevin_mallon@filemaker.com

  14. Curt Monash on April 26th, 2007 4:21 pm

    Chris,

    There never was a “panel” for you to be invited to. There was a webinar, announced in advance on this blog, that as already passed and to the replay of which I will soon post a link (I need to get it first).

    If you listen to that replay, you’ll get a sense of my more detailed criteria. Frankly, it sounds as if FileMaker will wind up missing in quite a few scenarios. I don’t know yet whether it will even meet a basic threshold for consideration; the lack of scalability worries me. However, in no way would any of that invalidate your collective enthusiasm for using it in a range of specific application scenarios.

    Kevin,

    I’ll email you ASAP.

    CAM

  15. Chris Kubica on April 26th, 2007 6:49 pm

    I know there wasn’t a panel. I was asking whether you’d decided to include it in your webinar or not. That’s all. :)

  16. Chris Kubica on April 26th, 2007 6:52 pm

    Yes, link me to the webinar. I’d just ask that you actually USE FileMaker before passing any actual judgement on it. Thanks!

  17. Curt Monash on April 26th, 2007 8:23 pm

    Chris,

    Please take a look at the list of products and vendors on the left-hand side of this blog. And on http://www.texttechnologies.com . And on http://www.monashreport.com .

    Do you REALLY think I use all of them? :)

    CAM

  18. David Kanter on April 26th, 2007 9:29 pm

    I sincerely doubt that software is more reliable than hardware. While there are anecdotes of folks with software that lasts forever without errors, to quote my business partner: “The plural of anecdote IS NOT DATA.”

    Almost all systematic studies have shown that software is much more likely to cause errors/failures/outtages/”bad stuff” than hardware. While this example is rather old, it actually has quite good data from the late Jim Grey, while he was at Tandem:
    http://dslab.epfl.ch/courses/pods/winter06-07/readings/gray-census.pdf If anyone has more modern #’s I’d be interested in seeing them.

    I’m not quite sure if hard drives have improved as much as other componenets – MPUs have literally comes miles in terms of reliability at the same time that software is getting vastly more complex. For instance, some MPUs can detect nearly all errors in the chip and then off-line themselves, while transferring the known-good state to a functional MPU in the system.

    Of course, then there are the exceptions, such as Google – they specifically follow a strategy of well developed and expensive software that can deal with failures, in order to facilitate using less expensive hardware.

    DK

  19. John on August 28th, 2007 11:04 am

    FileMaker absolutelly not the good database choice for programers/developers. Think about that, if you can not use SQL to implement data, it should be a nightmare. By the way, if you need a calculation throught multi relational database, it might be another nightmare too. Therefore, it is only the tool to fool the business guys who does not know the relational database concept.

  20. DBMS2 — DataBase Management System Services » Blog Archive » The FileMaker story on April 25th, 2008 12:05 am

    […] response to its small but vocal constituency, I got myself briefed on the FileMaker story. My conclusion, in a nutshell, is that FileMaker […]

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