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jennyjennison
Apr 4, 2008, 01:05 AM
Ok, I'm ready to take the plunge. I've been toying with a Mac Mini with Leopard Server on it for about a month and love the thing. I just got my ISP to provide me with a static IP and now I'm wanting to expand things a little bit.

My question is this:

Do I go Xserve or Mac Pro? What are the advantages to either one? It seems like the guts are close to the same and I'm looking at the last gen. Xserve refurb. on apple.com for $1999 ... OR a 2.66GHz last gen refurb Mac Pro for the same price.... I already bought Leopard Server so that really isn't a factor at this point (and I'm going to have a Mac Mini for sale REALLY soon here) but can anyone provide me some insight here? I'd really appreciate it. Either direction I'm wanting to use RAID 1 for backups but this thing would basically be:

1. Serving a few websites
2. Email for aforementioned websites
3. File sharing for a small design group (4 employees, all on LAN)
4. DNS (??? - this is the only place I've been lost so far...?!)

That's about it... I'm thinking the Mini isn't going to cut it over the long term here as I really want to use RAID 1 and some of these sites will have some fairly good sized MySQL action going on as well as quite a few simultaneous connections.

Anyway, any guidance into the pros and cons would be much appreciated!

thanks



Cybix
Apr 4, 2008, 01:26 AM
Sounds like your having a lot of fun.

I'm a consultant in this area and I recommend the following:

Get a network attached disk for your office file sharing (1T or 2T, whatever you want). Or attach some disk's to your Mac Mini and use that.

Get yourself a dedicated machine with Linux on it at good web host provider. I use superbhosting.net.

They have server's for around $50-60 USD /month. Very basic but do the job. I have a handful of them with client site's on them. One of my clients has a handful of very beefy servers with them and it's been great.

I strongly advise that you do not host anything at the end of a regular consumer ADSL/cable line. It's too risky from power/downtime perspective and will drive you crazy if your web server gets busy (you won't have bandwidth to do your other tasks unless you somehow shape your own connection)

If you must serve on OS X. Perhaps try to find a provider that offers this service, or just look at co-locating an Xserve box at a suitable facility.

I ran servers from my home office for years until I got sick of power issues, bandwidth problems, power usage, and NOISE. It's not cool when your home office sounds like the local Airport (fan noise, etc)

It's a fairly big step, moving the services from your own premises to a provider in a completely different city, state, country.. whatever.

I haven't looked back and find myself expanding more and more :)

foidulus
Apr 4, 2008, 07:57 AM
Mac Pro. Yeah you can run an XServe on a table, but thats not really how it was designed to run and you may run into thermal issues. the MacPro is designed to sit at a desk, and will probably end up with less thermal issue than an xserve.

jennyjennison
Apr 4, 2008, 10:19 AM
Hmmm... good food for thought on the thermal issue - thanks. Though the rack it would likely be sitting on isn't a traditional rack per se, I would have to do some thinking about that.

Cybix - thanks for the input. It wouldn't be (isn't) a consumer grade connection, that was priority number one for us (though we haven't put it through its paces properly yet either - seems much faster than my consumer grade cable connection though, at least downstream). We've actually done quite a bit of hosting outside, both colocated and dedicated plans. Part of the reason we got this 'bug' in the first place was just due to having too many problems with both... We just got over a 4 day down time with a colocated server, basically the admins at the facility were busily playing call of duty or something and didn't notice that entire clusters of machines were offline for days (and why this didn't interrupt their CoD playing we still haven't figured out!) ... it's just been one bad experience after another. My partner here brought up a lot of the things that you listed and we're quite concerned about all of them, notably power failure. Noise really isn't a worry as this stuff will all be in its own room (we wouldn't want to hear it while playing our own games of Call of Duty now would we?!)... Given our basic mistrust now of hosting elsewhere, do you have any tips as far as UBS, etc.?

Thanks to you both!

JasonElise1983
Apr 4, 2008, 10:48 AM
I would get a MacPro. There are lots of benefits to the xServe, but i think a MacPro would suit you. I mean, i fyou were ordering it new, and didn't already buy Leopard Server, i wold be all about you getting an xServe, but configure it the way you want it—AKA lots of ram, Lots of HD, dual power supplies, etc... My favorite thing about an xServe is being able to look at it and know if something is wrong just by what color all the lights are and what they are doing.

-JE

viggen9
Apr 4, 2008, 12:18 PM
Go with the Mac Pro. When you decide to upgrade a few years down the road, you still have a nice workstation for general use. It also is much quieter, has capacity for an additional hard drive (4 internal), doesn't require purchasing drive trays, and the Applecare is lots cheaper, iirc.

jennyjennison
Apr 4, 2008, 12:44 PM
The Xserve doesn't come with two empty drive trays?!

I didn't know that...

I've also been considering repurposing my existing Mac Pro (2 x 2.66GHz 5150 / 4GB RAM) as the server and getting a new one for workstation purposes - is there a world of difference in terms of performance? I was looking at the 8 core 2.8.... we've been doing a lot of design for video lately (seems like Motion is up on the desktop more than photoshop anymore so I wouldn't mind the speed boost, but cost is always a factor - we have the money, its just $2000 vs. $3000 is still something to consider).

One last question too that I don't know the answer to ... it was pointed out to me this morning that our Leopard Server is the 10 client version - does this apply to website visitors or just LAN clients for file sharing, etc.? It would kind of suck to be booting the 11th visitor to our website... hahaha.

ChrisA
Apr 4, 2008, 04:41 PM
1. Serving a few websites
2. Email for aforementioned websites
3. File sharing for a small design group (4 employees, all on LAN)
4. DNS (??? - this is the only place I've been lost so far...?!)

#1. Above all else. Do NOT use the same computer for office file sharing and your web server. The machine EITHER faces the web or the office but not both ways. You need two servers

Why use a Mac? hate to say it but they are good desktop machine but all that point and click interface is not needed to run a web server. Most servers run headless and you will just ssh into them. Linux. Solaris or BSD can all run a terminal

musicmasteroz
Apr 5, 2008, 12:25 AM
One last question too that I don't know the answer to ... it was pointed out to me this morning that our Leopard Server is the 10 client version - does this apply to website visitors or just LAN clients for file sharing, etc.? It would kind of suck to be booting the 11th visitor to our website... hahaha.

limited server licence is only for file sharing clients :) :apple:

Eraserhead
Apr 5, 2008, 05:02 AM
#1. Above all else. Do NOT use the same computer for office file sharing and your web server. The machine EITHER faces the web or the office but not both ways. You need two servers

For security reasons definitely that is the way to go.

I would also go for a cheap Linux server for your website, or use an external host, like AsmallOrange (http://www.asmallorange.com) or something...

jennyjennison
Apr 5, 2008, 07:50 AM
thanks musicmasteroz, that's exactly what I wanted to know. I've asked @ the Apple store twice now and no one there knows the answer.

regarding external hosting... it's a long story but the bottom line is that we've been screwed really bad twice now in 2 months and aren't likely to be too trusting of external hosting for awhile. sure, performance is better but the main website in question gets maybe 50 hits a day, fine with us as if even 1 of those hits ends up being a paying client then we do very well - we just can't have the site down for a week at a time and that's what we were getting used to when putting this in someone elses' hands. I guess the theory is that its better if we screw it up and make an effort to 'fix' things rather than submitting a support ticket and waiting for days at a time.

i guess my next question then would be this - if security is such an issue w/AFP and web services running on the same machine, is there nothing that can be done about that? we don't need FTP, SMB, etc. so where would the security risk actually be? (and no, i'm not implying that SMB is a security risk, I just have the philosophy that if there are limited paths into the server in the first place, what could I be missing? - I'm totally aware that this might be incredibly naive, that's why I'm here!! ;)

btw, I looked into ASO and their hosting options (thanks) and found this as a link on the home page:

http://forums.asmallorange.com/index.php?showtopic=11193

This just sounds too much like the experience we just had - nothing but GREAT service for over a year and then weeks of random (lengthy) downtime followed eventually by our site being outright lost (because backing up a couple hundred MB just must have been too challenging or something :( )

Eraserhead
Apr 5, 2008, 09:20 AM
btw, I looked into ASO and their hosting options (thanks) and found this as a link on the home page:

http://forums.asmallorange.com/index.php?showtopic=11193

This just sounds too much like the experience we just had - nothing but GREAT service for over a year and then weeks of random (lengthy) downtime followed eventually by our site being outright lost (because backing up a couple hundred MB just must have been too challenging or something :( )

I use them as well as edesignuk with very few problems, very occasionally (like twice in a year) the site is down, but the support is always excellent. Even if you host the site yourself you can't guarantee 100% uptime. Also keeping your own site backup is no-where near as complex as running the site from your own server.

EDIT:

i guess my next question then would be this - if security is such an issue w/AFP and web services running on the same machine, is there nothing that can be done about that? we don't need FTP, SMB, etc. so where would the security risk actually be? (and no, i'm not implying that SMB is a security risk, I just have the philosophy that if there are limited paths into the server in the first place, what could I be missing? - I'm totally aware that this might be incredibly naive, that's why I'm here!! ;)

The problem is privileges escalation. Even though it theory its OK its not in reality.

Sayer
Apr 6, 2008, 09:38 AM
There are many tradeoffs to any route. With a hosted server you are not in control of what the server has on it. You may want to add a new PHP or PERL and maybe the host won't support it or let you do it. Maybe you want Ruby on RAILS and they balk at that.

I hosted my own web site on an old G4 from home and I loved it. I had complete control. I could make changes as I saw fit. I didn't have disk quotas or have to share space with other clients.

I also ran my own mail server (postfix) to send big files that gmail choked on, I ran SVN (and before CVS) servers. I also did some file sharing.

One note about an Xserve vs. Mac Pro: Xserve comes with an unlimited client OS X server license, Mac Pro doesn't ($999 extra). Xserve is designed for failures in certain parts (power supplies, fans) and has easy replacement of such parts - Mac Pro is basically a solid block.

You can get small enclosed cabinets (http://store.apple.com/1-800-MY-APPLE/WebObjects/AppleStore.woa/wa/RSLID?s=topSellers&fnode=home/shop_mac/mac_accessories/server_accesssories&nplm=TK568LL/A&mco=734DB6C9) that are like a large rolling file cabinet with room for more servers, RAIDs, NAS, or even a Mac pro or two. They help mediate noise/heat issues.

Xserve has error correcting ram, Mac Pro doesn't, which can help reduce random data corruption and eventual crash of a server.

If you want to run any random Mac as a "server" you can easily disable the GUI (aka window server) and all the RAM it uses by enabling the "Other" login and logging in as user ">console" - bam you get dropped to a terminal prompt.