Apple Mac Mini with Snow Leopard Server
The Xserve alternative?
Review With Apple’s Xserve now discontinued, the only two Mac servers available are the Mini and the Mac Pro Server. The Mac Mini is Apple’s lowest-cost computer yet in its more expensive server incarnation it dispenses with the optical drive of its desktop sibling, instead opting for a second 2.5in hard disk.
Apple's Mac Mini Server: no optical drive, but two 2.5in hard drives inside instead
The server price hike has it in third place behind the basic MacBook as cheapest Mac. Yet the Mac Mini server squeezes two 7200RPM 500GB hard disks into its tiny case, along with a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo. In comparison, that means the CPU is about 11 per cent quicker than the desktop’s 2.4GHz chip, and the disks are faster.
The machine comes pre-installed with Mac OS X Server 10.6.3 on one of its hard drives, while the other is left empty – so if you want to mirror them, you’ll have to reformat and reinstal. However, it is possible to do this without reinstallation if you can boot from the System DVD and use the Disk Utility. However, there's no optical drive, so you’ll need to resort to the Mac’s drive sharing option or use an external USB DVD drive. Alternatively, start up the Mac Mini in Target Disk mode, hook it up to another Mac using Firewire and configure it that way.
Evidently, the Mini isn't your typical server box. There's no internal expansion except to replace its pair of 2GB DIMMs with up to 8GB. It has a single Gigabit Ethernet port, plus 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth, so it's not going to be a network gateway, either. What it is ideal for is as a small workgroup server or even rackmounting, as shown with its predecessor here. At 197mm square but just 36mm high, the box is tiny, inconspicuous and virtually silent in operation – it puts out just 14 dBA and uses 85W of power.
Without any more configuration than adding a few user accounts, it offers centralised storage, Time Machine backup facilities and workgroup email. Even a set of default shared volumes are set up automatically, with the Time Machine backup volume placed on the empty drive. A Firewire 800 port allows reasonably quick external storage to be attached, which can be added to by daisychaining or with a Firewire hub – either way, it’s certainly more flexible than using eSata.
No eSata, but Firewire 800, USB 2.0 and SD card slot options
In its Snow Leopard guise, OS X Server is only available as an unlimited client licences version, at an official price of £408 – so the £220 price premium of the Mini Server over the slower £600 base model is not too bad. Previously, the unlimited-clients edition of OS X Server was twice the price of the ten-client version, so Server 10.6 is considerably better value. It also adds a number of new features, including a 64-bit kernel and the new Address Book Server. As for what functions you might want to serve, well, OS X Server has most bases covered there.
Hmmm, call me a cynic, but....
This is hardly a replacement for an xserve though (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/08/apple_xserve_server_dead/).
Unless you build resiliency into the software stack (i.e. buy multiple servers), I don't see redundant nics, PSU or disks, let alone having a pretty weak cpu.
As a soho server for less than a dozen users, I can see a niche. For anything business critical, Apple have left many customers in trouble. Time to move to Windows or Linux on a Dell/HP/IBM box or similar.
The Mac mini makes a great workgroup server
We're using a Mac mini (earlier model) running OS X Server as our office server. It handles file sharing, user authentication, internal/cache DNS, calendar sharing, instant messaging, email, web proxying, intranet and wiki. Does a great job and I would thoroughly recommend this solution.
Its worth mentioning
that Server Admin, Workgroup Manager and a bunch of other apps in the suite can be installed on your desktop Mac and used to control instances of Snow Leopard Server from afar.
You have no clue what you are on about at all have you.
No health monitoring nor reporting - yup right there built into the server tools including alerting
No remote monitoring - wrong again build into the offering
Warning about pending hardware failure or redundant - sure you have got a point there but if you require that of each server than you are talking about several factors price category difference. No point comparing against such a small price item.
Management interface - sure others do get close but until you've actually used it you just have no idea how well everything works together and besides those openspurce components there are also a number of other services not available elsewhere. If you are happy tinkering, sure build it all yourself. Some people want to get on with their business
Daisy chain FireWire - I agree that seems daft, mine just uses iscsi volumes on my San. Nice flexible storage solution. I just have two cables out the back one for power and one for Ethernet. Granted. Second Ethernet cable would be nice but as a workgroup server that just doesn't matter.
Now the best bit for me is that it is silent and only uses 9.44w at idle and I've never recorded more than 18w under load. That combined with the San running on fan less d510 motherboards with 8 disks it is a very low power silent high solution.
Small Office / Home Office
If I'm a mac user, I'll use OSX server for the same reason windows desktop users tend to install windows servers - its what I know, and what I know, I can administer and that makes it cheap. Linux or windows suddenly becomes less cheap if I need to hire someone at £25k/year to administer it, or if I need to take time off income-generation to learn it.
In a soho environment, I don't have space for a 19" rack, I don't have dual power feeds and my connectivity requirements (vpn, calendar sync, time-machine etc) exceed my data capacity requirements. I also don't want server noise in my little office.
A small market perhaps, but it is still there.