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Old Feb 1, 2011, 04:38 AM   #1
webby74
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Mac Mini Servers or Mac Pro

Hi

This is my first new thread on here, and I apologise for its length but I needs some advice for future upgrade. But first let me explain where we are at now.

I'm a network manager at a school with mostly macs which run both Mac OS and Windows. We have around 500 users with around 200 computers. We currently run this with 3 Servers: 1 Xserve Open Directory, 1 Windows 2003 server (Active Directory, DNS, DHCP) and 1 Windows Terminal Server. Currently we don't have the two directories integrated and users have two accounts, this is obviously not ideal. The Xserve is linked to a Promise Raid and handles all the users accounts for mac and windows. We also have software that won't run on Mac that staff use which is why we have terminal server. During the summer we are upgrading to Snow Leopard, and also review the servers and use.

Users at the School tend to used their Mac accounts more than Windows, so I'm planning to retain the mac home folders and will probable use Active Directory for password authentication. Although I am looking at Open Directory handling windows accounts too.

On the xseve we also have the following services running in addition AFP: iCal, iChat, SMB (for Windows users), Software Update, Web (for intranet for Staff/Pupils)
DNS & DHCP are handled by our windows server, and email is handled externally by the Local Authority. We would like to run Podcast Server, and host are own Email and Website too in the future. I feel that it is clear that one xserve is not enough, it copes with all users logging in, but we have had some issues from time to time. We are also considering visualisation for the Windows servers two.

So my question is should I go for Mac Mini Server(s) or a Mac Pro Server?

A Mac Pro is around 2500, and would be more than capable to share the services/resources with the existing xserve.

On the other hand a Mac Mini is cheaper and we could purchase one or even two for less than the cost of a Pro.

Is one Mac Mini together with the xserve enough for all these services? Would I need two? Or am I better off with a Mac Pro?

Thanks for your time

Andrew
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Old Feb 2, 2011, 12:05 AM   #2
Abraham B
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Andrew,

In order to provide better advice I would really need to know which Xserve you are currently running, at what load, and if the RAID is connected via fiber.

Thanks,

Abe
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Old Feb 2, 2011, 09:52 AM   #3
webby74
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Originally Posted by Abraham B View Post
Andrew,

In order to provide better advice I would really need to know which Xserve you are currently running, at what load, and if the RAID is connected via fiber.

Thanks,

Abe
Hi Abe

Thanks for getting back. We do use fibre channel and I have attached screen shots from server admin to give more info on our system here. The First is the Spec, second is 7 days CPU, third is AFP.

Thanks in advance

Andrew
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Old Feb 2, 2011, 06:29 PM   #4
Abraham B
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Andrew,

I just wrote you a six-paragraph answer and was then timed out and lost it. I'm a little too disheartened to write all that again.

Your Xserve doesn't seem to be too taxed. Just make sure you check and see if the lag that you are "feeling" isn't from another weak point such as an old router or what not. You could likely get away with a Mini but if your administration falls in love with Podcast Producer and starts using it liberally you could easily run into some performance problems. Additionally, I don't suggest using Minis for file sharing of any kind with more than 20 simultaneous users - at least that is what I have found in my experience. It all really comes down to how much of each service your school uses. Even serving Mail might encumber a Mini in your situation if the staff and pupils are sociable enough. Many people spread out services among Mac Minis and have great success. I'm not a believer, however. I really like them for small offices and as personal servers for people to use in colocation - that's about it. But again, you Xserve doesn't seem to be overstretched so moving some services to a Mini might work if no one service is overly used.

In the end, a Pro is a safe bet but if the administrator who determines budget is someone who likes to add in increments - for instance a Mini at a time - then you might be able to save please them with the Mini. If they like to make safer, larger purchases all at once with room to grow - go with the Mac Pro.

Oh? What's that? You would like to know what I would do? I'm terribly fond of Xserves and would track down the last remaining ones sold by Apple Authorized Resellers. A dual core 2.26ghz would do most nicely with redundant PSUs. That's just me, however. I've spent the last three days tracking down the last of them available in North America as I did not want to wait until April to update some of my systems and because a Mac Pro just doesn't replace an Xserve.

Forgive me as the whole travesty is still a fresh wound. I should tell you to go with FreeBSD. You'd deserve that, wouldn't you Apple! I gave you my heart!

Abe
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Old Feb 3, 2011, 03:15 AM   #5
MattInOz
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Does your mail server get the odd large email or big pack of emails at the same time?

I know we had a similar issue with the built in anti virus scanner would happily lock up a core. Not such a problem with normal emails but a big email it can be long enough to cause other processes to timeout then make the spike worse and make the system to feel sluggish to clients.

Maybe something else. have a look at activity monitor the offening process should show up if you sort the list by usage.
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