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FileMaker Admin API solutions: Review & comparison

With the new FileMaker Server 17, FileMaker has redesigned their Server Admin Console. They have also added the FileMaker Admin API to provide REST API access for managing and administering the server. While you can always build your own, a handful of developers have written some FileMaker solutions that use the REST API for access to some of these features.

Driftwood Interactive has provided a nice list of available Admin API solutions. I took a look at each solution they had in their “FileMaker Scripting” section. Below is a quick review while trying some of them out. Keep in mind that these are all provided as-is and without warranty. Only the FMAdmin API Tool is released under the MIT license. While they appear free to use, there may be additional restrictions based on licensing. Be sure to check for licensing if you plan to use, modify, or rework them.

It is great that developers have created these solutions and are willing to share them with other developers. I think it is very commendable and is important to keep in mind as I review the pro’s and con’s of each. I hope my comments are taken as positive feedback and not as criticism. I think the fact they are providing them free for the community makes them pretty cool and worthwhile.

Before I get into the reviews it is important to realize what has changed in FMS 17 that prompts this need. Here are some of the changes we have noticed.

Functions that are no longer accessible:

  • You can no longer view client statistics or enable client stat logging from the Admin Console.

  • You can enable client stats logging from the CLI (command line interface), but it’s up to you to graph them.

  • There’s no way to view the log files from within the admin console

  • No longer any GUI for working with SSL certs

  • No ability to restrict FMS Admin access by domain or IP

  • The Admin Console doesn't show the Scheduled Scripts last completion time or the status

  • No ability to group databases by folder

  • Can only close one file at a time, or all. Can’t select a subset of files to close or open them


Functions only accessible via the command line interface (CLI):

  • Change the default password and allow hosting of files without a password

  • Limit number of FileMaker Pro client connections

  • Set a Maximum number of files to host

  • Set a Maximum simultaneous script sessions

  • Adjust RAM reserved for database cache

  • Adjust Statistics collection interval

  • Change Progressive backup save interval

  • Change Log file size limit

With that in mind, here is my take on 3 of the solutions.

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 1.26.57 PM.png

FMSAdmin

Posted by Rosemary Tietge

FMSAdmin feels the closest to the default Admin Console. User experience is similar, which is good. It is well thought out, and I like the ability to update the schedule. This one feels the cleanest.

Pros:

  • A good starting point if you want to replace the default Admin Console with a FIleMaker solution

  • Has the basic features

  • Nice Dashboard with a refresh button

  • Allows for Scheduling

  • Works in FMP16

  • Open/Close/Pause/Resume database files

  • Run/Disable/Edit/Duplicate/Delete/Refresh schedules

  • able to start/stop database server

  • Info popup window looks nice

Cons:

  • Limited interaction

  • Only very basic features

  • Script comments and documentation are minimal

  • Databases are not sorted, and there is no search. If you have a big list of databases, it can be difficult to find the one you need.

  • While the info popup window looks nice, it is limited in the info it display's.

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 1.31.47 PM.png

FMAdmin API Tool

Posted by Mike Duncan at Soliant Consulting

FMAdmin API Tool has all the basic features. I liked the server state dashboard. It was minimal and easy to understand. The remainder of the user experience didn’t feel as polished. It was a little confusing for some of the interaction as there was no obvious refresh button to see if anything had changed on the server. Buttons that say “Update” are not refresh buttons, they will update settings on server. I like that it has a debug view, and that it displays relevant info.

Pro’s:

  • Provided easy access to a debug view where you can see the last response header and body

  • Access to Schedules ( limited )

  • Works in FMP16 and FMP17

  • Open/Close/Pause/Resume database files

  • Get/Enable/Disable schedules

  • Databases are sorted and easy to scroll through

  • Information displayed when selecting a Database and Client has a lot of detail

Con’s:

  • Missing a refresh button

  • Not able to Create/Duplicate/Delete Schedules

  • Script comments and documentation are minimal

  • Not able to start/stop database server

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 1.42.32 PM.png

DM_FMS17_TheMissingAdminTool

Posted by Claus Lavendt at DataManix

DM_FMS17_TheMissingAdminTool is definitely more complete feeling. It provides access to several features, and it has 5 Major tabs for additional server assistance.

  • REST admin console

  • CLI Commands Helper

  • Web Admin console

  • SSL Certificate Request

  • SSL Info

This is the only one of the three to provide a nice link to the default admin console, as well as the REST Admin Console. Having them both in one place is a huge time saver. The CLI Command Helper, and the SSL certificate helper are added bonuses.

On the REST admin console, the UX looks a little cluttered and the icons are a bit confusing. After you get your mind past the clutter, it is nice to have everything on one page. Since this is the first with a CLI command helper, it is pretty sweet, however it leaves me wanting more. Such as a command interface to store settings and send the CLI Commands. Overall it is a bonus.

Pro’s Overall:

  • Easy access to the default Web Admin Console.

  • CLI command helper to assist in formulating your CLI commands

  • Helpful information bubbles in the CLI Helper, as well as Instruction and video links on the SSL certificates.

  • Makes it feel like a more complete tool.

Pro’s:

  • Looking at just the REST API Breakout features:

  • Dashboard is nice in that it displays a lot of helpful data

  • Open/Close/Pause/Resume database files.

  • Allows for selecting multiple databases at once.

  • Script comments are moderate

Con’s:

  • UX is a bit cluttered and confusing when first using.

  • No obvious refresh button, but you can accomplish similar behavior by using “List Files and Clients” or “Read config and status” buttons

  • No scheduling view or edit in the REST admin console. This would be useful if you were looking to store and automate creating schedules for deployment.


Conclusion

While I liked testing the different solutions, the one that felt the most robust would be the DM_FMS17_TheMissingAdminTool.

Initially I wasn’t sure about the need to have these REST features in a FileMaker solution, but working with these solutions has changed my mind. Having access in a FileMaker solution allows for storing credentials and settings data. It allows for scripting processes used for managing the servers. It provides quick access to look at the state and then make changes on various servers. One feature that I would find useful for any of these tools, would be to have a list for multiple servers. Perhaps with the dashboard stats, providing an overview and easy access to the more granular data. One of my colleagues mentioned he would like to have seen the folder structure integrated into the file listing.

-Xandon Frogget