FileMaker Server 16: Multiple Worker Machines

The FileMaker 16 platform includes FileMaker Server and introduces the ability to have multiple “worker” machines connected to a single FileMaker database server or “master” machine. This is mostly relevant to FileMaker WebDirect, which has greatly improved with the latest version.

This involves an understanding of the different services running as part of FileMaker Server, only one of which is the database server itself. There are also web publishing and scripting engines, among other services. Most important here is the Web Publishing Engine (WPE). That’s where WebDirect sessions are run from. FileMaker 16 introduces some changes to how WPE is managed in the FileMaker Admin Console.

Worker 1

FileMaker Server 16 represents the Web Publishing Engine a little differently. If you have enabled Web Publishing at all in the Deployment Wizard, you will now see the first “worker” machine attached. This represents a one-machine deployment. Previous versions allowed for a two-machine deployment you specified as part of the Deployment Wizard.

With FileMaker 16, the server machine is labeled as Worker 1 in your admin console. A two-machine deployment will show two worker machines, the first one being from the main server machine.

As the screenshot shows, there is no option to remove Worker 1, as it is part of the main server deployment.

WebDirect in FileMaker 16
Figure 1. Worker Machine 1 Options

500 Maximum Concurrent Connections

The Web Publishing Engine in FileMaker Server 16 is now much more capable, judging from the new server specifications. Previous versions supported multiple WebDirect sessions on a single machine. Unfortunately, if you needed more than 7 or 8, a two-machine deployment was required. Now, a single machine deployment supports up to 100 concurrent WebDirect Sessions.

Of course, that means your server will need to be provisioned well enough to handle the load. Make sure to give your server enough resources to handle anticipated usage. This is a big deal, because a WebDirect session is roughly equivalent to a FileMaker Pro or Go client. Once a user logs in via FileMaker WebDirect, a session must maintain all global field contents, local and global variables, and other information about the user session until the user has either logged out or their session times out, effectively disconnecting them.

The new supported number of maximum concurrent WebDirect connections is 500, with 100 users per worker machine in the deployment. That makes a total of five well-provisioned machines (the main server hosting worker 1, plus 4 additional worker machines) to handle 500 concurrent WebDirect users at the same time, accessing a hosted FileMaker solution.

Adding a Worker

The process for adding a worker machine is now different as well. As with earlier versions, you specify that the machine is a worker while installing FileMaker Server on that machine. In FileMaker 16, a deployment web page attaches the worker machine to the master machine. Each worker requires its own fully qualified domain name or IP address, including SSL certificate if appropriate.

Once the worker machines connect, the master machine routes FileMaker WebDirect sessions to them to balance the load. You will see the redirected URL in the location of your browser. FileMaker will route requests to the connected worker machines as much as possible, keeping as much of the main server available for handling all other services running on that machine.

Once a user routes to a secondary worker machine, he stays connected to that worker. He will not re-route to another one for the remainder of his WebDirect session. This is true for any parameters included in the URL string. You can still reference the “homeurl” parameter to redirect to when the user logs out, or pass in additional parameters like you were able to in previous versions.

Balancing the Load

You should always have users log into the main machine, worker 1, and then let FileMaker Server route them to the worker with the smallest load.

FileMaker Server performs its load balancing based on available resources of the worker machines and of course, perhaps the most important metric of all, user count per machine. The worker hosting the fewest users will typically get the next incoming user routed to it.

Using FileMaker WebDirect in Business Applications

Considering its continued improvements, FileMaker WebDirect serves as a strong contender for your next custom web-enabled business application. There may not be a better alternative for quickly building a feature-filled, robust web application providing such extensive customization options.

If you’d like to learn more about how WebDirect can enhance your business, contact our team today. We’re happy to discuss potential solutions with you.


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