It’s beyond the scope of this review to do more than scratch the surface of OS X Server's potential but, considering the price of the box, even Windows houses with just a handful of Macs ought to take a look at OS X Server. There's a lot here and it is just as happy talking to Windows clients. Indeed, Mac hardware aside, OS X Server can hold its head up proudly next to high-end corporate Linux distros, such as Suse Linux Enterprise Server or Red Hat Enterprise Linux – it provides all the same basic services and more, but with a highly professional GUI on top.
You can drill down into the settings for more information and configuration options
Starting off with the basic Server Preferences tool, creating users and shares is totally idiot-proof, so long as you have at least the most rudimentary knowledge of how to navigate a Mac desktop. After this beginners' level, Apple's tools gradually unfold to offer more control and information as you learn your way around. No Linux server system comes remotely close in ease of use, and it's a lot less intimidating than Windows Server 2008 – not to mention being about half the price, and that is without adding any client access licences, which, with OS X Server, you'll never need.
It's also worth noting that Apple's Universal Access tools, bundled with Mac OS X, also work with all the server-admin apps. Unusually, this is a server that can be happily operated by a blind or visually impaired admin, without adding third-party screen-reader tools and thus compromising the stability of your server.
The internal speaker turns out to be a surprisingly beefy too. Hence, sighted admins – who have a little ingenuity and improvise a few scripts – could even have the server speak alerts and error messages aloud, should they desire.
The only snag I encountered with the Mini server was using the HDMI-to-single-link-DVI-D converter that’s included in the box. DVI-D does not carry analogue VGA signals – it doesn't even have the pins – so you can't drive an analogue monitor with this adapter. However, there is a VGA adapter for the mini DisplayPort interface alternative, but it’ll set you back £21.
You can get a long way down into detailed settings, with nary a sendmail.cf file in sight
Incidentally, if you're absolutely committed to Windows or Linux, you still have the option of using Apple's Boot Camp utility to put Linux or Windows Server on it as well. But if you bypass Mac OS X Server entirely, paying the near-£900 price for just the hardware, no longer seems like such a good deal.
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.