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back to article Apple Mac Mini with Snow Leopard Server

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. Mac Mini with Snow …

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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.

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An interesting move

Could be a winner for the SOHO market.

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Go

I always thought ...

... that it would be better named as the Mac Maxi :-)

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Coat

no..

it would have to have winglettes on the side... to stop data spillages..

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The one (probably only one) giving thumbs down...

...a woman caught in that special time of the month.

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Anonymous Coward

There is a hosting company...

in the states specializing in these. The name escapes me at the moment, but I *think* the going rate is $35/month/server which includes the lease cost ($25/month/server if you purchase your own).

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jai
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macminicolo.net

They're called macminicolo.net

I've been using them for years, because I thought it'd be a laugh to have a personal server to host my website and email on. I'm still using an old single core Mac Mini, both for my personal use and for hosting websites that I'm building and are in development.

Can't recomend Macminicolo enough.

They're extremely helpful. I think their prices are very good, especially compared to the alternatives. I don't think I've ever experienced an unscheduled outage and even then, I think they've only had a sheduled outage once in the last 5 years and that was only for an hour I think. If you need to have a server that is entirely under your control, but want it in a secure and power-managed server room, I can't think of a better option.

I think they're a great solution. When there's been major OS releases that have required full installs they've offered discounts to their normal charge and roll out the upgrade to all the clients that request it in a single weekend. They also provide the option to have a remote connection to the power supply that your mac mini is connected to, so in the event of a complete crash you can power cycle the device (1st Rule of IT Support - Switch It Off Switch It On).

As I say, been a very happy customer of theirs for years. Highly recommended.

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For that price...

I think I'll just buy a NAS that offers me

1) more drive options (more drives, hot-swappable, and multiple RAID types)

2) more USB, eSata and network connections

3) a nice web based admin interface I can easily manage over the internet

4) about 1/4 or even less of power usage

If you had said you should tape it to the back of a monitor, I might have agreed....

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FAIL

Talk about different applications

Your NAS box does not offer

1) A mail server with webmail, POP3 and IMAP

2) Directory services (single sign on, in case you don't know what that is)

...

etc.

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jai
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only if you want a media server

You're description of a NAS suggests you're only thinking of it as a media server type device, and for purely streaming music, a NAS is probably the best option. But the Mac Mini is better suited as a full server, hosting web domains and email accounts. Instead of a rudimentary web interface of a NAS box, you'd remotely connect to it via Screen Sharing and use it like a normal desktop machine. If you wanted it as a media server, you can load iTunes with all your music/movies/tv-shows and then stream it all to your AppleTV.

And how many more network connections do you really need than wi-fi or ethernet?

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Linux

Server indeed...

Nope. A real RAID chassis is what you usually associate with real servers that do things like serve up email and web domains or really serious stuff. OTOH, you could have the sort of "server" you describe running on an AppleTV. Sometimes I am occasionally tempted to do just that with my old ATV that no longer has the guts to by a PVR extender.

You're trying to run a "server" on lowend consumer gear with no redundancy to speak of either way.

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Badgers

NAS good for NAS

I've tried making a NAS into a server. Despite processor GHz claims, they don't have enough general purpose processing power to do it. I/O is slow, the CPU is an ultra-low power variant, and memory is slow and limited. Load it up as a full server and it won't be much good at anything.

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Happy

Have you used a modern NAS?

Mine has all the features you mention:

1. Media server

2. Web Server

3. Mail Server

4. MySQL server

5. Advanced Web interface for maintenance

6. Application as plug-ins for additional functionality (about 20 to chose from and free)

With 6TB of storage it still came in cheaper than a Mac mini server by A$300. Only draws 20W and was a breeze to set-up. Hope that brings you up to at least 2008...

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Really?

So I can use your NAS box as a domain controller for a small office? I'd be interested to know the manufacturer and model.

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7 posts before derailment began.

"For that price... #"

Where were you? 6 sensible posts before you stuck your oar in.

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Power draw

Note the 85W power draw is the absolute maximum, with loads of external hard disks etc. hanging off the ports. On average the machine will take much less.

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FAIL

Noooooo

Mine draws about 18 watts when just serving.

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Ideal for green serving

There are companies who offer green hosting using solar power. These would be ideal for that sort of eco low bandwidth usage.

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Re: Noooooo (Power Draw)

Actually I measured 8 Watts average over about a week. Pretty good, although this probably increases if you're doing heavy access.

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Great box but...

...your comment about it supporting Windows machines is a little stretched; you obviously never tried to join a domain hosted by it from a Windows 7 client.

It doesn't work, and is unlikely to work in the near future as far as I can see - http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2200942&start=0&tstart=0

Still, I love my Mac Mini Server (the older model). I have my Drobo Pro hanging off it, use it to host a VPN and Tonido and Teamspeak servers.

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Happy

Next version of SAMBA

... should resolve the Win 7 issue - which is also an issue for the recently reviewed packaged Linux servers (ClearOS, Zentyal, etc). If I understand it properly, the current version of SAMBA can only act as an old NT Domain, which Win 7 will not be able to join. The new release is supposed to be able to mimic a more current AD (2003 or 2008, I'm not exactly sure).

Now that's assuming the next version of SAMBA ever gets released, from the sounds of it that's been in the making for quite a while now and, assuming they're having to blind reverse engineer proprietary and undocumented Microsoft AD... it's an understandable challenge.

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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.

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FAIL

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.

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Erm?!

If you're doing business critical stuff then why would you be using a low end Mac?

You wouldn't serve business critical stuff from a laptop and this is basically a laptop innards in a nice box.

This is marketed as a server for small or home based businesses.

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Customers Not in Trouble

You can still buy the Mac Pro with Server installed. Perhaps not as many redundant backups (dual PSUs, etc.) but a powerhouse server box. The biggest problem is size. Using desktop towers in the server room is a step back 20 years.

The XServe was a wonderful server room box. My guess however is that too many admins admired it but went with commodity rack mounted boxes thus making Apple give up on the server room. I know a number of admins that would have liked a server room full of xserves as servers and storage units. They either couldn't get it past the bean counters or past management's prejudices.

The current "push" by Apple to use Mac Pros and Mac Minis as servers tells me again that they've conceded the server room and are making a half-hearted attempt to stay in the game.

With the current push towards blades and dual computers in a 1U rack case, using either Minis or Mac Pros loses coming out of the gate.

Bottom line, Minis make great appliances and SOHO servers. Mac Pros would be good for workgroups as part of a larger network, but with xserve out of the picture, Apple shows up empty-handed when it comes to the "serious" server applications.

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FAIL

Disgusting

For less money Dell will ship me (list price) a 1U rackable server with a:

Quad core Xeon 2.4Ghz

4Gb RAM

2 Gigabit NIC

Hardware RAID Card and battery

DVD-RW drive

Embedded BMC/DRAC card (remote management)

Fedora / Ubuntu etc

Upgradable

Rack kit

And that's without calling directly and demanding a discount.

Honestly, this is just a mini-PC with 2 HD's and no optical drive. Overpriced.

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I tend to agree with you, but...

...a lot of small businesses simply don't need anything more than the Mac Mini server offers.

I started reading this review thinking I'd hate this thing by the end of it, but it actually makes a lot of sense if you need slightly more control than a standard NAS offers (LDAP etc) but don't require GPOs/Exchange and just want something that can handle users, some shares and an email server, etc - and that's not including the extra stuff you can use if you have an Apple-based shop.

It might well be a sleeper success, assuming people realise it exists.

Steven R

( although I'm perfectly happy with my Asus T3 quad core Athlon VM server, which cost a third less than this to build and doesn't suck a huge amount more power when it's not transcoding video, etc)

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Pint

Something you overlooked

Is the value of the software and the time it could save you.

Your electricity bill will also be lower.

Some things are worth more than the cost of their parts.

Beer, because I'm off to enjoy one. (I won't be worrying about my Solaris and Apple servers.)

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Yes, the Dell is nice ...

but does it run OS X Server?

One of my clients is an graphics artist/ad agency, they use Macs only out of several reasons and just replaced a Linux box with a Mac Mini Server. Saves them a lot of trouble.

It's the same reason why people use Windows Servers instead of Unix, familiarity an interoperability.

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Linux

It's not production hardware.

> ...a lot of small businesses simply don't need

> anything more than the Mac Mini server offers.

Well, they certainly tend to think that until something goes wrong.

This highlights the problem with Apple in general. They only cater to a very few use cases when it comes to the hardware they put together. Then they ignore everything else.

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Happy

@Volker Hett

"the Dell is nice ... but does it run OS X Server?"

Yes, quite nicely within a VM instance, thanks. Or rather mine does.

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@Annihilator

I think that the question implied licensed and supported. As you can't run OS X server on anything without an Apple logo your install isn't either, even if you've stumped up the cash for it. (shame on Apple etc, etc...)

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WTF?

not "less money"

Hi Steve,

I just configured a Dell R210 (their cheapest 1U rackable) and your config lists for $1511 and is now on sale for $1284. That's with just one 160GB drive. With two 500 GB drives it's $1870 list. $1643 on sale.

Maybe you had a different box in mind? I didn't see a cheaper one but maybe I missed it.

The Mini is certainly less powerful etc than this but I can get one for under a grand.

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But you also need to buy the rack

If you have a rack around, great. If not, you've got a big, probably loud, 1U slab sitting around the office.

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Boffin

They work well as network gateways, actually

Unless they're radically different to the previous model, you have two options for using them as a gateway (as I am). Firstly, they take the USB Ethernet adaptor sold for Airs, so you can add extra physical interfaces (I believe you can add several; I've only tried one). Alternatively, they support VLAN tagging, so you can take a trunk port into a switch and then break out onto multiple physical networks: that's what I do at home. Both are supported by virtualisation, too, so you can use a Solaris or Linux VM as the actual last port of call before the Internet if you trust their firewalling more.

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IPhone

I like these but can't believe they haven't integrated the mail server with activsync so that iPhones sync fully with it.

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Tried it Already

We tried running a workgroup on OSX on a Mac Mini. Yes, in theory it should work. But in practice, we put our shared drive on an external USB HDD, and USB enclosures are notorious for being unreliable when run continuously. We fried a lot of HDDs and went through a lot of grief before we just ponied up and bought the tower form factor Mac. Everything worked fine since then (until someone plugged the Mac directly into the wall and then caused a power surge; but that's another story).

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Server?

A pair of laptop disks and a single GigE connection? OSX software RAID1 and HFS+? If this machine fits your needs, then what you need clearly isn't a server. Then there's the issue of the price...

But if you have to have an Apple, and you only have a few users, I suppose one of these is better than shelling out a pile of cash for whatever sort of real computer Apple would sell you.

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Reminds me ...

... of the old Cobalt Qube, and probably to a large degree is suitable for the same sort of users and tasks.

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E 2
WTF?

Preposterous, laughable and arrogant offering

It is not a server in any proper sense of the word. A netbook can run Samba/Apache/what-have-you: a netbook is not a server either.

I'll not recap The Original Steve's points.

***

"...small workgroup server..." indeed. With a pair of SATA disks, it will serve a small work group very well. The smaller the work group the better it will serve.

With no apparent health monitoring and reporting facilities, nor remote management, it is a disaster waiting to happen. All hardware fails: server hardware tells you when a failure looks likely and lets you into the machine even after a failure... this thing does not.

***

"...Samba for Windows networking, Apache, Perl, Python, Ruby, Rails and MySQL for Web hosting. There’s CUPS for printer management, Dovecot for POP3 and IMAP e-mail delivery, Postfix for SMTP, SquirrelMail for webmail, Mailman for running mailing lists, SpamAssassin for junk filtering, and so on ..."

-and -

"... an official price of £408 ..." ( - for the OS if understand the article correctly):

We would be ill served indeed by downloading OpenSuSE or Fedora or Debian or one of the server-customized Linux distros, now wouldn't we? Perhaps because Saint Jobs is not in that case watching over us?

To those who will immediately protest that Apple has stuck a beautiful and magical daemon management interface on top of this: I call BS. There are too many bullet proof FOSS web based daemon management systems available for anything Apple has cooked up to make much difference.

***

USB and F/W interfaces on the back where we can daisy chain more storage! More and more standalone disks waiting to fail. More and more cables and cable jacks waiting to fail. More and more made-at-lowest-cost power bricks waiting to fail.

Where would we daisy chain some proper backup hardware for all that Time Machine data stored on all those stand alone disks?

***

"Indeed, there really aren't many downsides to it."

No ECC RAM, limited to a pair of disks on the internal SATA bus, storage expansion via USB or F/W, single Ethernet interface, expensive even though built largely upon FOSS software, no optical drive, laughable cooling when under load, a snakes nest of USB & F/W cables and power brick cord if one chooses to take 'advantage' of the 'expansion' facilities.

Where might we find a downside? Where indeed might we even begin to look for a downside?

I can't imagine where we might look for a downside, my memory capacity fails when confronted by the task.

***

It's not a server. It's a very pretty toy. It will look pretty sitting on a dias in a prominent location where impressionable clients or members of the board can see it. But... it will not look so pretty with all those wonderful USB & F/W hanging of the back of the dias.

This is a false product.

Made by Apple, for people who either fear to understand what they need in a server, or for people who have never had to detect or fix a server failure.

If you buy this thing and bet any valuable data or functionality on it for more than two years, then you are a fool. Or a hardcore Mac addict.

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@E2

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.

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@petur

Just possibly attach it to the back of a monitor as a SFF PC. Does it have anything like a decent GPU though?

And... Apple would not deign to equip it with ISO standard mounting holes for the back of an LCD monitor. Apple *would* offer a magical and revolutionary mounting plate adapter, water-jet carved from a block of solid aluminum, with a set of magical and revolutionary bolts also water-jet carved from blocks of solid aluminum. For no less than, I'd say, $150.

The revolutionary aluminum bolts would magically strip very easily, and Apple would blame you and offer to sell you a glorified rubber band to fix the problem.

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mail utilities and server on a nas

Oddly, qnap make available a free "xdove" install which is dovecot+xmail for their nas boxes. :)

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Anonymous Coward

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.

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@Stuart Anderson

My spies tell me that a server suite is forthcoming for the iPhone.

It will let licensees operate their server for up to 12 hours on a single battery charge subject to usage patterns.

It will also let licensees keep their server in their breast pocket where it will be safe from terrorists and other evil doers.

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Flame

@Jai

"1st Rule of IT Support - Switch It Off Switch It On"

That's the first rule of inadequate IT support.

The second rule of inadequate IT support is:

"Scratch your head and try to sound like you know what you are doing".

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Linux

Small home or office.

For trivial use, Windows users don't need to install a special server. You're either doing something serious and you need to take the situation seriously, or you don't really need a dedicated server at all. The real question then is why is Apple pushing you into the situation where you're spending absurd amounts of money for server software or for some glorified laptop that's been declared a server.

This stuff should be on the same disk that comes with any Mac. MacOS is supposed to be "certified Unix" after all.

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It's a nice little machine, but

I'd want drives I could easily swap out on a server, if they blob and you're stuck waiting for a replacement it's going to be a bit frustrating. Would prefer a Dell server + CentOS.

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no ECC

Remember that it doesn't have ECC though.

The alternative solution (on Mac Pro) does. It's not a good substitute for Xserve though :(

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Grenade

Great, apart from the lack of windows 7 support

I've got one of these in the corner of the office.

Serves everything we need to do and works seamlessly with out macs.

Management is incredibly easy the Server admin tools, both locally and remotely.

The only stumbling block is the lack of support for Windows 7. The fact that these can't authenticate is becoming a big headache. Here's to Apple sorting this ASAP.

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