Using FileMaker as a backend Database, what would be the preferred web technology to develop in (PHP & FXPHP or PHP & ODBC or XML or Java & ODBC)

The next project I’m working on is a Billing System.  This system will need to be web based and have the following functionality:

• Order-entry and revision.
• Transmission of data into Smartstream.
• Invoice generation and transmission.
• Reporting.
• Catalog maintenance.
• Cost Center support.
• External users must have access.
• Workflow and user privilege maintenance.

So, I don’t want to invest time and money into a particular technology only to find out down the line it will be nearly impossible to develop such a system.  

What have you used/seen in similar web applications that worked with FileMaker?  
davidaarongAsked:
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lesouefCommented:
what is Smartstream? ERP?
invoice transmission: how? towards client? accounting app?

What have you used/seen in similar web applications that worked with FileMaker?
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very few, and simpler stuff than you describe most of the time
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rogierCommented:
We have a very similar system running and we use instant web publishing. You don't need to make any investments apart from developing your application. In our case, some layouts had to be adapted for that but no problems with the functionality. You'll need Filemaker Server Advanced 8 for that, though, the "normal" version of FM server works just with Filemaker 7 and 8 clients.

See here for more info:
http://www.filemaker.com/developers/resources/web.html

goodluck
rogier
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davidaarongAuthor Commented:
SmartStream (http://www.extensity.com/page/smartstream_SMS.html) is the finacail system we have here for accounting
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davidaarongAuthor Commented:
Hi Rogier,

We have a FileMaker Server Advanced 8 server installed, so that isn't an issue.  What is, is trying to decide which technology to go with.  

Can  you expand on the type of system you were able to develop using Instant Web Publishing?

 Just from several IWP database we’ve developed, there are some limitations to doing a full blown Billing system via IWP.  
 
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rogierCommented:
what we have done is expandable. we have just started the process of connecting the FMP solution to an Oracle application which we use as our financial information system (1B$ revenue). We use extensity (from smartstream) for time tracking and we believe that can be connected as well, although we see no need for it (all staff uses the web interface to enter their time sheets which are then transferred into the oracle financial system.

the FMP solution we use is to create quotations, generate order confirmations, set up invoicing schedules, select invoices to be raised, print them, manage credit control and report on all of these to the management. We're a service provider and charge just time. It's not so difficult to add a cost calculation per staff member including overhead, and add generation of profit/loss reports for projects.

how many users are there in your environment, and how many orders do you take per week? does every order have just one invoice?

rogier
 
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davidaarongAuthor Commented:
there will probably be around 200 users

avg orders per month is around 1000

avg. invoices a month are 380

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rogierCommented:
so that means that you collect several orders from the same client on one invoice, right?
r.
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billmercerCommented:
>We have a FileMaker Server Advanced 8 server installed, so that isn't an issue.  What
>is, is trying to decide which technology to go with.  

Why limit yourself to just one? You could go with a mixed solution, using IWP to construct the basics, and using XML/PHP/etc when you need functionality IWP can't provide.
In general...
Use IWP when you want extremely fast and easy development and don't need complex reporting or processing.

When you want more flexibility and the fastest performance, go with Apache/PHP and one of the packages that talks with FileMaker's XML interface. In addition to FX.PHP, there's another option, called FM-and-PHP, from a German developer. It's supposed to be easier to learn than FX.PHP, though I have only played with it briefly. (http://www.fm-and-php.info/index.php)

If you're more familiar with Windows-style programming, VB/ASP/C#,etc, you may be interested in this...
  http://www.connectingdata.com/fmdotnet.htm
It's a set of  dotNet classes that interface with FM's XML. It's sort of equivalent to FX.PHP. It works with ASP.NET, but also with other .NET languages as well. Supposedly Mono-friendly as well.

For transmitting data to another system, ODBC might be your best bet, as just about everything can work with it.
FileMaker's ODBC is always going to be at a disadvantage versus other ODBC drivers, because FileMaker itself is not SQL-based, so there's more overhead and translation involved, but it's definitely the most "standard" way to get data out of FileMaker into other applications. SmartStream is based on Sybase, so it ought to be able to talk with FM via ODBC with no problem.

>Just from several IWP database we’ve developed, there are some limitations to doing a full blown
>Billing system via IWP.

True, but it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can mix 'em up. Use IWP for the basic interface, forms, and so on. When you need more sophisticated reporting or complex processing, use PHP or ASP. Regardless of which approach you use, you'll want to run the FileMaker database on a separate server from the Web Publishing engine.

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davidaarongAuthor Commented:
Hi billmercer,

Do you have/know of any examples I can view that demonstrate a mixed solution for IWP.  

Thank you,
David
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