Multiuser Server Redux

The pricing strategy of the Flash Media Server 2.0 (formerly Flash Communication Server 1.5) brought out some comments that elicited sympathy and bitter recognition from me, including
this one from Stefan Richter at FlashComGuru

The good news is that there still is a free Developer Edition which allows for a maximum of 10 connections, regardless of bandwidth consumption.

There will be no Personal Edition anymore and this may disappoint some users. However the Professional Edition (still priced at US $4500) is now unlimited in bandwidth. This is great news for high bandwidth applications such as streaming high quality video.

But – and it’s a big but – the Professional Edition is also limited in the amount of connections it can accept simultaneously. The limit is set at 100 connections.

While this is a positive change for streaming video applications (the Flash Media Server Pro Edition can push more video than the FCS Pro Edition could if you base it on an average size stream) it is a severe blow for anyone running Flash Media Server as a game server, utilizing shared objects and generally low bandwidth games – this includes myself. 100 connections will basically mean that I can no longer use Flash Media Server for serving games. It will simply become unaffordable if I want to serve 300 to 400 users at once – it would mean stacking 3 to 4 Pro Licenses totalling US $18,000… For these kind of deployments I am better served (no pun intended) sticking to FCS 1.5 for the foreseeable future.

Flash — unlike Director’s now unsupported Multiuser Xtra — doesn’t have the option of creating direct connections to other IP addresses. Messages between computers have to go through a server of some sort, and FCS/FMS is the only option Macromedia offers to do that (there are a couple of third-party tools).

Of course, since the demise of the Shockwave Multiuser Server in 2001, the Flash Communication Server has been the option Director developers have been sold as a replacement — despite its not really doing the same types of things that the SMUS did — you’d think that someone at Macromedia would have tried to avoid a similar trajectory with a Flash product. (And don’t get me started about Generator!)