From a developers perspective, Advantage Database Server looks pretty good. Especially for Delphi developers who are using TDataSet. From an IT perspective, it's terrible.
One of the biggest feature they tout is "Zero administration, easy to install and manage — does not require a database administrator, eliminating high administration costs."
I'm not sure how they came up with this, but I spend more man-hours supporting one Advantage Server in a six month period than I've spent in the past 4 years supporting two large SQL servers. Some of this is their fault and some of it isn't.
One of the biggest problems is that Advantage is such a small product, security appliances and software just don't have built in rules for it. This means that there are constant communication problems between clients and the server - the infamous Advantage Error 6420. This isn't their fault, it's just they way it is. You don't see this as much with Microsoft SQL Server because it's such a large product, rules are built in to allow communication. Or at the very least, all you have to do is click a button or check box and you're on your way.
Not so with Advantage.. Expect to spend significant time reconfiguring your entire network to allow communication on port 6262. If your business purchaces computers intended for home use (with home based security software), expect to spend even more time.
You should also expect to have problems when running on a peer-to-peer network. Advantage doesn't communicate by TCP port alone, it requires a UNC path or mapped drive to effectively communicate. This means that Windows permissions play a huge part and if a particular remote user doesn't have the correct permissions to the server drive, errors will occur. All it takes is for one user to change a password or have a saved password removed and boom...Advantage Error 6420.
If you are running a Windows domain and control your firewall through Group Policy, you should have few problems. One problem I'm going to highlight is one we had about 4 months ago. We configured our Domain Controller (Windows 2003 SP2) to be a VPN gateway only, no routing or other settings. Everything was up and running with no problems until one day when we had a user VPN in. The second he did, Error 6420 on all computers. When he disconnected, the problem persisted. I disabled RAS, rebooted the server, and everything went back to normal. I reenabled RAS and everything ran fine, until someone connected via VPN. The second he did, Error 6420 on all computers. I worked with Advantage/iAnywhere support and they were unable to come up with a solution.
Being one of the few IT people in the world who doesn't think he knows everything about computers :-) - I brought in our outside consultants to take a look. 12 billable hours, 4 MCSE's and 2 Cisco CCIE's later and we had no answers. We finally gave up and used a Cisco appliance for our VPN needs. So much for "eliminating high administration costs" - we ended up paying over $2700 to address our VPN issues...and we have 6 IT people on staff. Imagine how much a company without IT staff would have paid.
For more, see part 2.