Comparative Analysis

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

With the release of FileMaker Pro 10, FileMaker aims to breathe new life into the relational database market by incorporating Web-centric features and improving ease of use.

When it comes to the desktop relational database management system (RDBMS) market, three names come to mind—Microsoft Office Access, Alpha Software’s Alpha5 and FileMaker. While each of those products has its niche, they are much more alike than they are different.

To compare those products it is best to look at the strengths of each to determine where they fit in the market.

Microsoft Office Access is designed to work with other Microsoft applications and presents a look and feel that is very consistent with the Microsoft Office Suite of products. Access is also complementary to other Microsoft software development tools and in many cases can be used to bridge the gap between a desktop application and Web-based applications.

Access also offers Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), which is similar to Visual Basic 6.0 and used throughout the Microsoft Office programs. That makes it easier to transition an Access application over to something more robust using Microsoft’s Visual Studio. Developers can create a "compiled" MDE or ACCDE version of an Access database to protect their intellectual property and prevent end users from getting to the design portions of the database and modify module code, forms and reports. When compared with FileMaker Pro Advanced 10, Access proves to be a better choice for Microsoft-centric shops that have a significant investment in Microsoft technologies and training.

Alpha Software’s Alpha Five V9 is similar to Microsoft Office Access in many ways. Both applications can work with multiple data sources, and both offer a "basic-like" programming language and support the creation of compiled multiuser applications.

Alpha Five V9’s claim to fame comes from its rapid application development (RAD) capabilities. While FileMaker and Access offer a GUI-based development environment, Alpha Five V9 goes much further when it comes to capabilities and design. What’s more, Alpha Five V9 offers the ability to create AJAX-based applications, which allow developers to move Alpha Five V9 applications over to the Web with unprecedented ease.

FileMaker Pro V10 also offers Web application capabilities but requires the purchase of File Maker Server V10 Advanced for $2,999 to accomplish that task and FileMaker’s Web application features are quite limited, when compared with Alpha Five V9. For developers looking to make the transition over to Web applications and leverage AJAX technology, Alpha Five V9 proves to be a better choice than FileMaker.

FileMaker does have several strengths over its primary competitors. For example, FileMaker Pro V10 works on both Macintosh and Windows platforms, allowing developers to create databases for mixed environments without having to do any extra work. Also, FileMaker proves to be an easier product to get started with. New users can import in Excel spreadsheets and other data sources to create "instant databases." For the most part, FileMaker’s design tools and database creation features are much easier to use than competing products. That makes FileMaker a better choice for small businesses and workgroups that need to get a database thrown together quickly.

When it comes to the RDBMS market, solution providers should not kid themselves by thinking that they will make any money on selling those products. Margins will prove to be razor thin, and there’s substantial competition from retailers and e-tailers when it comes to selling boxed RDBMS packages. Nevertheless, there’s a huge services and custom application development opportunity with RDBMS.

Contemporary RDBMS software reopens the world to affordable custom application development, where a solution provider can bill out for design, training and implementation, configuration, and security services. FileMaker Pro V10 proves to be a good product for creating all of those opportunities with a minimal investment needed.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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