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Apple IT Hardware

Among Servers, Apple's Mac Mini Quietly Gains Ground 367

Posted by timothy
from the if-you-can't-see-it-is-it-beautiful? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "In 2005, the first business to offer colocated Mac Minis inside a data center made its debut, provoking criticism on Slashdot of everything from how the Mini was cooled to the underlying business model. But nowadays, more than half a dozen facilities are either hosting their own Mac Minis for rent, or offering colocation services for individual consumers and businesses. While some vendors declined to give out reliability information, those who did claimed a surprisingly small number of failures. 'If Dell makes a small little machine, you don't know that they'll be making that, in that form factor, six months down the road, or what they're going to do, or how they're going to refresh it,' Jon Schwenn, a network engineer for CyberLynk Networks (which owns Macminivault) said in an interview. 'We've had three model years of Minis that have stayed externally, physically identical.' Customers are using Minis for all sorts of things: providing Mail, iCal, and the Websites for small businesses; databases, like Filemaker or Daylite; as a VPN server for those who want an IP address in the United States; build servers for Xcode; and general personal servers for Plex media streaming and other fun projects. Some are even using it for Windows."
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Among Servers, Apple's Mac Mini Quietly Gains Ground

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  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:27PM (#43050987)

    Customers are using Minis for all sorts of things: ... Some are even using it for Windows.

    I guess the moral of the story is "beauty is only skin deep".

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:28PM (#43050993) Homepage Journal

    just changs things.

    HAHAHA. NO I kid. Apple changes thing without notice all the time.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:48PM (#43051123)

      What part of "stayed externally, physically identical" are you failing to understand?

      Yes, of course they change things all the time, but the article was referring to the external form factor for the mini, which hasn't really changed much in years even if the ports and guts have changed quite a bit. The last significant revision was 2010.

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        um.. ever heard of the 'Rack Unit' standard?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rack_unit [wikipedia.org]

        • The question is, what's the processing or storage density of a bunch of Mac Minis vs a racked configuration?

          I dare say that's where the companies are finding them profitable.

          • by nabsltd (1313397) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @02:25AM (#43052605)

            The question is, what's the processing or storage density of a bunch of Mac Minis vs a racked configuration?

            You can place 4 Mac Mini boxes in on a 1U rack shelf, assuming the shelf runs the entire depth of the rack. With the 4-core, 8-thread Core i7 processor in the current models, you can get slightly better thread density than most other 1U servers. For memory, other 1U servers will do much better than the 64GB mas combined in the Macs. For storage, the Mini loses badly, as it can only hold two 2.5" drives, and cannot easily or securely connect to a SAN (as it would have to be on the same layer 2 network as the Ethernet connection to the Internet).

            Since you are paying for a lot of things you won't use in a colo environment (WiFi, Bluetooth, Thunderbolt, IR receiver, Firewire, SD card slot, audio), you could almost certainly build a machine of the same specs (and close to the same form factor) for less. The only real advantage is that you can sell people individual physical servers if they don't trust virtual machines for some reason. If you go virtual, you can quite easily put more utilized processor, memory, and hard disk in the same amount of rack space as the Mac Mini setup, but you likely couldn't do it with 1U systems.

            • You can place 4 Mac Mini boxes in on a 1U rack shelf, assuming the shelf runs the entire depth of the rack. With the 4-core, 8-thread Core i7 processor in the current models, you can get slightly better thread density than most other 1U servers.

              You don't have to go exotic to beat that very handily.

              You can by a 1u 4x64 Opteron (1/2T main memory without dying of a price overdose) or a rather more expensive 1u 4x 10(?) Xeon. They are much faster, therefore much denser, offer a unified system image, can come wi

          • by drsmithy (35869)

            The question is, what's the processing or storage density of a bunch of Mac Minis vs a racked configuration?

            That's only a small part of the question. Then you have things like IO options, redundant connectivity, redundant power, manageability, servicability and longevity.

            A HP C7000 blade chassis with BL460c blades will give you 16 blades, equalling 256 HT cores, 8TB RAM and 32 spindles in 10U. That's 25.6 cores, 800GB of RAM and 3.2 spindles for every RU. Other vendors deliver similar numbers.

            According t

      • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:19PM (#43051911) Homepage

        Your post is just such an obvious contradiction.

        "It doesn't change. But all of the meaningful elements change".

        Back when I was using Minis for MythTV I had 3 of them. They each had their own video dongle because each one of them had a different video port. Such a simple basic thing wasn't the same from one release to the next.

        As far as a datacenter goes, there are standards and Apple gear does not conform to them.

        • Yep (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @05:54AM (#43053059)

          For data centers, it is still all about VGA. The reason is KVM systems use it. Even the big network KVMs are generally VGA at heart. The standard in servers is VGA, with one on the back, and one on the front. The back one for wiring to a KVM, the front on for hooking up to a crash cart.

          Now this may not sound like a big deal but when you've managed a number of servers it quickly becomes apparent why such a thing can matter. Can Minis do VGA? Well of course, but as you noted you'll need a host of adapters. Then, of course, if there's an issue you get to wonder if it is the system or the adapter, and so on.

          There's a lot done in the server world with regards to standards that is the though for not when things go right but when they go wrong. If you've never experienced the problems then you might not appreciate why but if you have, it becomes rather clear.

      • by fnj (64210) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @12:07AM (#43052109)

        What part of "stayed externally, physically identical" are you failing to understand?

        Do you have the slightest idea what you are talking about? The current Mac Mini (post 2010) is 196x196x36mm and the AC cord plugs directly into it. The physical first generation (2005-2010) was 170x170x51mm and had an external power brick. That is not "externally, physically identical".

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:54PM (#43051159) Homepage

      It's technology. Of course it's going to change.

      The question is whether Apple will continue their product line. Many companies (Sony comes to mind immediately) tend to release highly inconsistent one-off products instead of improving a line of products in the long run.

      The slam on Dell seems a little strange though, since they tend to have more consistent product lines than a lot of tech companies.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745)

        Apple has radically changed direction without telling people for it's entire existence.

      • by MrHanky (141717) on Friday March 01, 2013 @09:29PM (#43051361) Homepage Journal

        Well, what do you expect. It's not a story, it's an ad.

        • by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Friday March 01, 2013 @09:32PM (#43051369) Homepage

          Plus, anyone that thinks you can have a server without ECC hasn't been doing this very long and needs to be yelled at by both Wietse Venema and Dan Bernstein.

          And if you have to ask which Dan you really have no business running a server.

          • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday March 01, 2013 @10:10PM (#43051609) Homepage

            Depends on its intended purpose. You can use desktop hardware as a "server"' if it's nothing mission critical. The complete understanding that you have no redundancy or data integrity and your willing to weigh the cost risk as a business decision. Sometimes failure is cheaper than uptime.

            • But it's not cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @01:05AM (#43052365)

              It is $1000. That's the thing here. They aren't all that powerful and they cost a grand. So you can pack 8 of them in to a 5RU shelf, apparently. Ok, that's $8k, presuming no upgrades... Well go have a look at what you get from Dell for $8k. You can get quite a bit of server, including things like ECC RAM and hot swap disks and all that.

              I can understand getting a single cheap computer as a server if your needs are low, and thus you aren't going to spend a ton. But when you are talking about tossing a ton of them in a rack, well you have to evaluate what they'd be competing against.

          • by 6ULDV8 (226100)

            > both Wietse Venema and Dan Bernstein.
            > And if you have to ask which Dan you really have no business running a server.

            He's the middle bear, right?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228)

        Not to mention Apple cancels products no different than any other company, they also make drastic changes, just like any other company. I'd say the real moral of the story is short of DIY, where you just take a shell and put in what you need, you are truly at the mercy of the company and I don't care if that's Apple, Google, MSFT, Dell, whomever, its all the same.

        Personally I'd be very surprised if Apple even stays in the X86 business, when you look at cost VS profit X86 takes more work for less reward than

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          Personally I'd be very surprised if Apple even stays in the X86 business, when you look at cost VS profit X86 takes more work for less reward than any other branch at Apple.

          And their division that shows the greatest reward for the least expense is their legal department.

          So if you follow that logic, by 2016 they will be strictly a patent trolling company.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by node 3 (115640)

          More likely at some point they'd tout some ARM multi-core with keyboard snap on (ala the Asus Transformer) as the "future of Macs" and kill the X86 line, it just doesn't fit well with their current business strategy.

          No. How is it you can spout this nonsense for years now, and still think it makes any sense? I'm sure that Apple is constantly assessing their use of Intel chips, and is looking at ARM-based Macs, but there's no way they are going to completely switch to ARM unless they can make better ARM Macs than they can Intel Macs, and that day is not coming any time soon.

          It's definitely possible, but you take a silly axiom (that Apple must control everything), and apply it to absurd extremes (that Apple will kill the

    • just changs things.

      I think you are suffering from Changnesia.

  • A new fad? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:37PM (#43051053)

    Is this a new fad or something? Some tweaker rolled into my office wanting to know if we did consulting for setting up a webserver on an apple platform. We only did windows/linux. I questioned him on why he wouldnt just use a linux box for webhosting? He didnt have an answer.

    Is this just some hipster fad? Finding a use for old Apple boxes? Or do they offer something that linux/windows hosting doesn't?

    • Re:A new fad? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kenh (9056) on Friday March 01, 2013 @09:47PM (#43051475) Homepage Journal

      Look at the MacMini specs - latest processor, room for two drives (HDs, SSDs, or a mix), and 16 Gig of RAM. Couple those specifications with relatively low power demands and it makes a nice colo box. You can fit six or eight easily on a 1U shelf, more if you put them on their sides. The colo fees for a MacMini is a fraction of the price of a 1U colo server of more conventional design.

      The MacMini is 'good enough' in most regards for a general purpose web server.

      • Re:A new fad? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Friday March 01, 2013 @11:33PM (#43051975) Homepage

        > Look at the MacMini specs

        It's packed like a jack-in-box with poor heat management even in a consumer environment. Pack them together like sardines and you're just making the situation worse. Beef up the components and you're just complicating the already piss-poor heat management.

        These things are bad enough as a "home server". Nevermind cramming an absurd number of them into a rack.

        The only reason that this is even an issue is the whole "monopoly" Apple has on running MacOS binaries. Otherwise, this would be an obvious candidate for virtualization or running on hardware that's actually designed for the operating environment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by node 3 (115640)

      Is this just some hipster fad? Finding a use for old Apple boxes? Or do they offer something that linux/windows hosting doesn't?

      No more so than Windows/Linux offers something that OS X doesn't for small scale deployments like this. It's six of one, half dozen of the other.

      I think the main mistake here is in thinking that Apple users are simply hipsters. They are normal people, like you and me. In your example, that person probably uses a Mac, and wants something he can relate to, maybe even maintain himself to some extent, and at the very least, will be configured to be more compatible with his PC than a Linux or Windows server.

      And

    • Re:A new fad? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by drosboro (1046516) on Friday March 01, 2013 @10:00PM (#43051539)

      I've got a Mac mini with CyberLynk / Macminivault. What they offer - a dedicated server (albeit, not the most powerful one imaginable, but dedicated nonetheless) with a significantly lower cost than other colocating companies. They even financed the server for me over several months (at 0% interest / fees, if I recall correctly their special at the time). Then, when I got sick of OS X Server (after about 12 minutes), I emailed them, and they went ahead and installed Debian on the Mac mini for me (in fact, I believe it was Jon Schwenn from the article who did it). There was some confusion about how to get it to reboot after power failure under linux, but a little careful googling fixed that. It's been running perfectly ever since.

      Long and short of it? I've got a quad-core dedicated Debian server at less than 1/3 the price I used to rent a similar machine for from another company, and close to the price I was paying at the time for a VPN at Slicehost. The service from Jon and his co-workers has been outstanding, the data centre has been reliable (one brief hiccup due to a power issue in the last year and a half). And I'm with you on this point - not quite sure why anyone would really want to run OS X Server.

    • by jbolden (176878)

      Yeah there are a few unique features like being able to run the old Quicktime streaming server (now the open source Darwin Streaming Server). But not many advantages. Apple is not in the generic server business.

    • "Is this just some hipster fad? Finding a use for old Apple boxes? Or do they offer something that linux/windows hosting doesn't?"

      Integration with Mac OS X clients. Using AFP is seamless (mostly) for web designers who are working on Macs. o.O

    • by stms (1132653)

      I bought a Mac Mini back in 2005 (I think) I used the thing as a personal server from home for about 7 years until I replaced it with a Raspberry Pi last year. Sure the Mac Mini is no power house but as a personal server with only a few simple services it's a pretty good solution. It's much more simple to set up as a server than a Linux/Windows solution. I spent hours trying to figure out how to configure the Pi how I wanted. I know it's almost a cliche but the mac mini just worked. The hardware is rock sol

  • To their credit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by U8MyData (1281010) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:42PM (#43051081)
    These are great little machines. I have had two and want another. Oh, and I am agnostic when it comes to these things, but I do give credit where credit is due.
  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:46PM (#43051105)

    Even the "server" version of the Mac Mini does not support ECC RAM [apple.com]. Many other important server-grade features, such as IPMI, are also missing. Why would anyone choose this over cheaper, more robust commodity PC server hardware? You can't even plead cosmetics, because it's a freaking server; it goes in a rack somewhere and only a handful of IT staff ever need to see it. The only possible reason I can think of why someone would want to run an OSX server is if they were going to be remote-accessing it to run Xcode for iOS development. What else can you do on OSX that you can't do on Windows or Linux?

    • YOU can say "We use OSX."
      Marketing, it's what makes Apple strong.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:54PM (#43051161)

      That's the only reason. Apple won't allow for OS-X to be virtualized on non-Mac hardware. vSphere would be perfectly capable of handling it, VMWare has their software on Mac, has Mac integration tools, etc but Apple won't allow it. So if you want OS-X in your datacenter, you have to buy a Mac and since there is no Xserve anymore it is a mini or a pro. Well the pros are really expensive, and quite large (like 4U if you got mounting hardware) so Minis it is.

      There really isn't a good reason in most cases, but then fanboys have never needed a good reason. We had a case where people asked for it. A department hired some fairly clueless ex-students that have a "web consulting company" to make a site for them. Said students are Maccies. They wanted a Mac server, running Wordpress to develop on. We said you can have Wordpress (though we tried to talk them out of it) on Apache on Linux because that's what our sites run, we aren't buying a Mac server for you.

      • by BasilBrush (643681) on Friday March 01, 2013 @09:13PM (#43051275)

        I see. You object to people using the tool that they know how to use, and insist they use your preferred tool instead. That's pretty typical of IT Admin types.

        It also explains one of the reasons for the success of the Mac Mini Colo companies. People who can set Macs up don't need you anymore. They've developed a solution for a small project on their Mac. Then when they need the bandwidth, get a Colo service to host a Mac Mini for them. They get complete control, using a system they understand well, and have no need for assholes that like to say no. For a very moderate cost.

        It's not something for big corporate solutions. But for small companies and individuals it can be exactly what they need.

        • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday March 01, 2013 @09:19PM (#43051307)

          I see. You object to people using the tool that they know how to use, and insist they use your preferred tool instead. That's pretty typical of IT Admin types.

          No, I don't think you really do see. He told a story about some people at a university who wanted the IT department to support a unique one-off system, the IT department said no. I guess they could have said yes and handed them a bill for all of the extra overhead involved, but the result would probably have been the same.

        • I haven't looked into it myself, but please explain how the collocation of Mac Mini works? If your renting a virtual server, that's one thing. But to host your own U server requires renting by the amount of Us all the way to entire cabinets. Those get real expensive. Say something goes wrong. Will you have 24/7 physical access to the data center? Will someone escort you to the cabinet hosting yours and everyone else's Mac Minis? Or will ops just tell you to wait there while they pull your box for you to tak

        • by sammy baby (14909)

          Do you see the obvious contradiction in what you just said? The article focuses on the birth of these Mac colo companies, which can make money in an extreme niche of the market because they're in a small group of services providers standardizing on Mac hardware. Because they have stayed almost identical between model years, the provider can just by them by the truckloads as little commodity services, knowing that if one goes that they can just swap another one in.

          The in house IT department, which you like

        • They were trying to insist we use their preferred tool, rather than the one we know how to use.

          You are pretty typical for a web developer who has no experience in a managed environment. You think that you are a special snowflake and that you should have what you want. Doesn't work that way.

          One-off solutions are a big problem, they are what ends up taking lots of time, lots of resources, lots of support. They are the 5% that takes 95% of time. That's fine if you want a bigass IT group, but if you want just a

      • by otuz (85014)

        They specifically allow OS X Server to be virtualized.

      • by Ryanrule (1657199)

        whos fuckin stopping me? apple? fuck them. ill do it anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vux984 (928602)

      Its perfectly suitable as a home server if you happened to have an extra one and wanted to use it. But I agree 100% with your post.

      There is no rational reason to select a mac mini for a colocated server. Even most of the suggested uses in the summary don't make any sense. Databases should be hosted on linux or windows... even Filemaker can be hosted on windows. Mail servers, calendar servers, etc... a colocated ANYTHING for a VPN server is absurd, and plux media / streaming / etc... again... for the price i

      • by kenh (9056)

        A colo provider can put 8 minis in a 1U shelf/tray and split the cost of a 1U server colo across 8 servers, hence monthly colo costs can be 1/8th the price of, say, a colo'd Dell PE1950 (or I liar). Sure, you can achieve the same 'magic' with 8 VMs on a 1U server, but some people really like the idea of dedicated hardware.

        • by vux984 (928602)

          A colo provider can put 8 minis in a 1U shelf/tray

          From what I can see 2 mac minis fit in a 1U shelf. The "8 mac mini racks" are 5U.

          Sure, you can achieve the same 'magic' with 8 VMs on a 1U server,

          Exactly. So ... in 5U, that's 40 VMs -- comfortably. You can likely do even more.

          That changes the math considerably.

          • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @12:43AM (#43052247)

            Dell will sell you a 2U (R820) system that can have 4 processors in it up to 2.7GHz and 8 cores each. It can then take 1.5TB of RAM, 16 2.5" drives (magnetic or SSD) 7 PCIe cards and so on. You'd better believe you can stick more than 40 VMs on that sucker, and you can get another one in 5U with 1U to spare.

            Or you can go blade server, Dell has options here though IBM has higher density solutions available, if what you want are a lot of systems in a small amount of space.

            All of this supports real enterprise stuff like redundant power, ECC RAM, RAID-6 hot-swap drives, central monitoring, failed component isolation, and so on.

            Piling a bunch of consumer computers in a rack doesn't really make a lot of sense, particularly ones not designed with good cooling solutions. When you start doing real high density on computers, cooling is a real issue. Servers are made to deal with it, the vent in the front, out the rear so you have have hot/cool zones and they have high speed fans if they need to spin up due to ambient increases. Mac Minis rely by and large on diffusing heat through their cases and a tiny vent at the back, which is not a winning scenario in a dense situation.

            You are going to get better power usage in any large scale by bigger systems with virtualization and having them stand up and down as needed. You can do that with real servers that have full lights out management (Dell calls it iDRAC). As load on the servers rise, new servers can be powered on and made read to the cluster as needed. Also all that high end stuff can buy you realtime failover and migration so things can be shifted around as needed.

            All this gets rather feasible with the costs you are talking. 8 Mac Mini servers is, minimum, $8000. That gets you 4GB per system, a 2.3 GHz quad per system, and 2 1TB drives. Because I bought one recently I can tell you that you can get a Dell R720xd will run you about $9000ish for 2x 2.6GHz 8 core CPUs, 128GB of RAM (aftermarket) and 6 1TB HDs (which will let you do RAID-6 with a hot spare and have 3TB of space). I'm not seeing what the minis gain you, and I can give you a list of things they don't have.

            For all that, it is a similar power profile. The Macs spec in at about 680 watts total, the Dell has redundant 750 watt PSUs though in my testing only pulled about 600 at max load.

            All that in less than half the rack space.

            So other than "It can run OS-X" what are you getting with a ton o' minis?

        • So much this. A VPS is NEVER the same as your own hardware, even hardware as lowly as a mac mini.
          • by vux984 (928602)

            So much this. A VPS is NEVER the same as your own hardware, even hardware as lowly as a mac mini.

            Get a decent VPS. You get what you pay for. The newer stuff with clustering / load balancing / live migration means you don't get stuck with a 'hog' as a VM neighbor on your host machine, which was definitely a hassle on the earlier VPS stuff. I have active VPS and CoLo services, so I'm not speculating here. VPS has gotten a lot better.

            But that said, yes, a VPS is not the same as dedicated hardware; I won't try

    • There are several advantages to OS X, but all of the ones I can think of accrue to desktop users only. Examples include that spellcheck is so easy to include in every application that it is everywhere that it makes sense to have it. Versions is also really great for word processing in LaTeX where you could use a versioning system but why here it just works without any interaction by you except to his control-S. There is also the fact that I've never had a Linux box where going back to a sufficiently old OS

    • by kenh (9056)

      Low power consumption and form factor together make for very affordable colo fees, a fraction of the price for a more conventional 1U server.

    • by Khyber (864651)

      So unsuitable yet 4chan seems to run on mac minis just fine, eh?

    • Not every server has to be 'server-grade' in all respects. The advantage here is a BIG PIPE with a cheap, mass produced, sub 1U server whose parameters are extremely well known.Its not 'cosmetics' that make it attractive, its the small size relative to 1U systems. With traditional racks you get a choice of owning the whole 1U or buying slices on other people's machines. Mac mini colo sits in between those points. Love or hate Apple, mac mini colo makes financial sense for a wide spectrum of use cases. Not a
    • by jbolden (176878)

      What else can you do on OSX that you can't do on Windows or Linux?

      Darwin Streaming Server (a particular type of Quicktime streaming). :)

      _____

      Seriously for SMB there are a lot of mac specific features. I can imagine for a small business things like unified Time Machine backups are useful. Basically what OSX can do is support Mac and Mac specific protocols for small business.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:48PM (#43051125)

    "more than half a dozen facilities" -> More than 6? Wow!

    "have stayed externally, physically identical" -> Amazing! I wish there was a standard for servers, so that I wouldn't have to keep reconfiguring my data center layout.

    Jeff

    • > I wish there was a standard for servers, so that I wouldn't have to keep reconfiguring my data center layout.

      I know! The 1U vs. 1Ui is driving me nuts!! Why would anybody think that 1024 mm to the meter would make any sense? Thus a 44.45 mm 1U becomes 45.516 mm in the 1Ui unit!!


      (Since this is the Internet, I guess I'll have to put in the small print: This is a joke. It's supposed to be funny).
  • by Pubstar (2525396) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:50PM (#43051133)
    So 7 hosting companies out of how many? It seems like this was written to just make a quick dig away Dell (same model numbers with completely different hardware inside).
    • by kenh (9056)

      Dell is very consistent with server internals and BUSINESS desktops/laptops.

      Consumer products from Dell are a different matter....

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:50PM (#43051137)

    "If Dell makes a small little machine, you don't know that they'll be making that, in that form factor, six months down the road, or what they're going to do, or how they're going to refresh it,"

    Actually, with Dell you have a pretty good idea. They have defined life cycles for their servers, and they are pretty good about maintaining a general class of equipment. This is not the case for their low end consumer stuff necessarily, but the stuff you'd put in a datacenter.

    Apple? Shit son, they'll change tack and tell nobody before hand. The Xserve is the best example. Their 1U server, a thing they sold for use in everything including super-computer like clusters. Then, suddenly it is gone. Just can't buy it anymore, no replacement. You need 1U equipment? Fuck you.

    Or the Mac Pro, which is on sale, but they let get woefully out of date before updating.

    Apple is the ultimate at doing whatever they want new whenever they want it. They are not at all interested in backward compatibility or consistency. They'll stick with a form as long as it suits them and then change.

    Now that's fine, I'm not saying it isn't valid, however to act like they are good at stability for datacenters is silly. They are not at all. The next Mac mini could be a totally different form factor, or there could be NO next Mac mini. You don't know and Apple won't release any roadmap.

    Heck a funny mini related incident is one of our professors does research with rovers he builds. They use Mac minis as their core controller because he's a Mac guy. They worked fine since they were small, and powered by DC they could hook up to the power supply for everything else. What's that you say? They aren't DC powered? Ahh yes, well a couple generations ago Apple changed it, stuck the PSU inside the unit. Great for consumers, bad for him. He's now stockpiled some older ones to use when they break and is trying to come up with a long term plan.

    To me this reads like a Mac zealot trying to justify their use of them as a good thing rather than a well thought out argument for why they are good in the datacenter.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by node 3 (115640)

      To me this reads like a Mac zealot trying to justify their use of them as a good thing rather than a well thought out argument for why they are good in the datacenter.

      Or maybe it's someone who has had great success using them in the datacenter, and sharing their experience?

      It's idiotic to call someone a "zealot" for saying Mac minis make good servers.

  • by Zeromous (668365) on Friday March 01, 2013 @08:59PM (#43051185) Homepage

    I support one running windows. Died once. Was horrible to replace the drive as their was a ton of drives it would not support 2-3 years later.

    Once I was able to replace it with a drive it would support I had no issues. The thing is rock solid, cool, and quiet, unlike most of my other big metal.

    Why you ask? Not sure- I inherited it, assumed it was a beg borrow and steal sort of thing.

  • serial console (Score:4, Insightful)

    by manu0601 (2221348) on Friday March 01, 2013 @09:55PM (#43051521)

    The missing bit that strikes me here is the serial console. If a server does not boot anymore and you want to go single user to fix things, the serial console is convenient, as it allows you to do it without going into the data center an hook a keyboard and a screen.

    I tend to be a mac person on the desktop, but I am not convinced by mac servers since the day they retired their 1U Xserve

  • by otuz (85014) on Friday March 01, 2013 @10:08PM (#43051585) Homepage

    What most of you fail to understand is the TCO. The hardware costs nothing in comparison to how little time they need for setup and maintenance. If one fails, big deal; get a new one and restore it from the backup and it's running with a few minutes of work. Need more capacity or redundancy? Just get another and it's running within minutes. Need more demanding mass storage and/or networking? Plug that into the convenient external PCIe bus (Thunderbolt). Basically lim(0) setup time there too.

    I still run my own servers as dedicated co-located generic Linux boxes, but the setup still takes roughly a day; not hours or minutes. That time isn't billable and I schedule it to days I can't do anything productive. If something fails without warning and requires immediate action, it's a day subtracted from writing billable hours of code, which per se costs about the same as a Mac Mini Server. For the customers of mine who need dedicated units for one reason or another, the Mac Minis pay for themselves just in the initial setup work alone, and they can manage them by themselves, just like my mom is able to manage her MacBook with maybe a support call every few years, when she wants an opinion on a hardware upgrade or such.

    After the Mac Mini servers got the i7 CPU's, none of my customers chose a Linux option when presented with the cost breakdown. From the software perspective, my code isn't picky about which Unix or unix-like it's running on. Almost anything goes, as long as the system dependencies are installed. OS X Server just happens to have all the system dependencies preinstalled in the shipping configuration as well as everything else they typically might need.

    In a small or medium scale setup or a large scale setup of heterogenous systems, Linux is cheap only if time doesn't cost anything, or the comparison baseline is something even worse; Microsoft Windows or such. Linux-based setups may also be feasible for certain large scale installations of homogenous nodes.

    • If you're installing that many boxes, why don't you have a preconfigured linux install that you can just dump onto the drive of a target box?

      You should be able to set one up once, dump it to storage somewhere, and just image it onto the target hardware.

    • If it takes you a day to setup a linux box, you have no idea what you're doing. 20 minutes with kickstart *ONE TIME* will get you a repeatable install that you can re-use indefinitely. Restoring from a backup should be identical on either platform - timemachine isn't some magical and new thing. It's called a GUI over the top of rsync.
  • Ain't gonna die (Score:5, Informative)

    by towermac (752159) on Friday March 01, 2013 @10:18PM (#43051659)

    I have an original 1.42 Ghz mini sitting on my desk running nightly reports. It was a CFO's desktop for a year, (for a tiny company), and it's been running reports since then.

    iCal repeating events tell Filemaker to query MSSQL databases, which outputs Excel files, which are manipulated using Applescript. Mail emails the finished and highly formatted reports to various people in the company. Pretty damned easy to work with, given the magic "Record" button. I used to have it print overnight, but that became too old school.

    It still has the Apple serial number in the disk info box - never even been formatted. Still has 512K Ram. Never misses a beat. I guess for 8 years now. Put that ROI in your pipe and smoke it.

    I should still probably get around to backing it up someday..

  • Something tells me that we will see Intel NUC colo soon as well.
  • No raid. No ecc reg ram. No ipmi*. No thanks. What happened to Xserves? Everybody switched to Linux.

    *not that I use ipmi, but its presence marks a serious machine room server
  • by Barlo_Mung_42 (411228) on Saturday March 02, 2013 @01:23AM (#43052423) Homepage

    "More than half dozen". So more than six and less than twelve facilities use these and it makes news? Then a few sentences later I read that "some of them even run windows". More wtfness going on. So someone is buying over priced hardware to run retail (because Apple doesn't have an OEM agreement) copies of Windows. That's a winning business plan right there.

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