Advice on upgrading company OS X server

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by dmylrea, Aug 17, 2014.

  1. dmylrea macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2005
    #1
    Need some advice/direction on replacing our aging Mac server (Mac Pro 2009 w/Snow Leopard Server).

    The company has a Windows and Exchange server for the majority of users, but our graphics department is made up of about half a dozen users and the Mac Server is primarily their server. It has a XSERVE RAID box full of aging drives, so the new server will need lots of storage (8TB).

    The question is, what direction do we go? Given that Apple has all but dropped the server line, do we go with a New Mac Pro with Mavericks "Server" and add Thunderbolt storage, or switch to a Windows server for the Graphics Dept.?

    It's primarily a "file server only" for the Macs. Email, DNS, etc., is on the Windows server. I don't have any experience with the newer "server" software Apple is selling, but it seems (for the cost) very scaled down. Looking for advice on whether it would be a suitable replacement for 10.6.7 server we are running now.

    I probably left out a bunch of info, so just ask!

    Thanks for any ideas.
     
  2. dimme macrumors 65816

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    SF, CA
    #2
    If it just for storing and sharing files I would go with a Linux box. You get the best performance and the most bang for your buck.
     
  3. dmylrea thread starter macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #3
    That would require I master Linux, which I prefer not to. Want to stick with Windows or OS X.
     
  4. dimme macrumors 65816

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  5. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #5
    OS X Server is indeed dumbed down a bit. It is extremely easy to migrate to and set up, but I will be honest, some of the advanced functionality has been changed or removed. I think the better question you need to ask yourself is, "What hardware do I want knowing I am simply migrating to Server 10.9?"
     
  6. BrianBaughn macrumors 601

    BrianBaughn

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    #6
    Take a look a the Synology NAS product line and how the software can relate to a Windows server.
     
  7. dmylrea thread starter macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    Sep 27, 2005
    #7
    Good question. It seems I don't have many options if I am migrating to Server 10.9 except a new Mac Pro. But, the main question, to me, is whether 10.9 Server is robust enough. We may not be a large number of users, but we are high traffic and really need a good, fast file server.

    More than a few comments I've read about 10.9 Server say it is a dumbed-down version, basically no more than on/off buttons for most functions. As long as I can manage users, set folder permissions, etc., then I don't need much more, but I'm concerned about performance.

    Would a base model new Mac Pro with lots of RAM and a good Thunderbolt drive array suffice to replace the aging Mac Pro with the XSERVE Raid?

    We're not trying to be cheap, so lower-performance options like NAS boxes, etc., are not what we are looking for. We have a good budget, but I need to be sure we're not throwing money at a solution that won't perform.
     
  8. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #8

    Personally I think it will be more than ample.
     
  9. chrfr macrumors 603

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    Jul 11, 2009
    #9
    Why not just use or add storage to the company's existing Windows file server? 8TB doesn't count as lots of storage anymore and using real server hardware rather than an overpriced for the purpose Mac Pro makes a lot of sense.
     
  10. dmylrea thread starter macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #10
    I would prefer that route, except our existing Windows server is SBS 2011 and it's already maxed out.

    As a Windows IT person, I am more comfortable with that option, and I understand Mavericks (and Yosemite) support faster file performance with Windows servers. Problem is, I haven't had the time or resources to test it yet. I basically inherited this network from another IT person years ago who was an all-Apple person, so I've slowly been upgrading. The easiest option is a new Mac with Thunderbolt storage, if it's up to the task.

    A "real" Windows server isn't so cheap these days either, especially with the server software licenses.
     
  11. chrfr macrumors 603

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    #11
    This is true, which is why I was asking about using the existing server.
    For just file serving, a Mini with external Thunderbolt storage and adequate RAM will be as fast as the Mac Pro. The Mac Pro doesn't offer much advantage aside from ECC RAM as compared to the Mini for these purposes.
    I wouldn't rule out a good quality NAS, though.
     
  12. dmylrea thread starter macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #12
    What about reliability? 7x24x365 a Mac Min would last a number of years?

    I tend to agree that, given the price difference and that there aren't other Apple options, the Mini might suffice. File I/O isn't that CPU intensive, but we really need a reliable machine.

    Our Mac's need to log into something, so not sure a NAS device is the way to go.
     
  13. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #13
    With a NAS you probably would have them locally log in but put the home folder on the NAS.
     
  14. chrfr macrumors 603

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    Jul 11, 2009
    #14
    Who knows. Buy 2 and you're still way ahead of Mac Pro price. I have a 2010 Mini that's been in use 24/7 since I bought it about 4 years ago, and it's not yet had a hardware issue.

    Synology supports Active Directory authentication, which I assume you're using in the SBS. https://www.synology.com/en-us/dsm/index/management
     
  15. dmylrea thread starter macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #15
    That's what I DON'T want to do though -- make compromises on a Mac Mini. If spending $3000 on a new Mac Pro will give us better "peace of mind" then it's money well spent. If it were my money, I'd get a Mac Mini in a heartbeat and just deal with any issues, but in this case, we need "rock solid".

    I'll put it under consideration (and I might get one and use it for a "trial" server in their department), but the more I think about it, the more I feel a $1000 PC for a departmental server is a mistake.
     
  16. sevoneone macrumors 6502

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    #16
    We use a 2012 Mini server in a similar capacity that you have at your office. I have a marketing/design department of 5 that we switched over from PCs using a very old Dell PowerEdge server running Win 2003 for file sharing only.

    The mini is used for all their file sharing needs, some automated file sorting/ftp uploading using folder actions on the server, a vpn server so they can access files if/when they work from one of our other two offices, and Profile Manager Server for our small fleet of iPad minis.

    We don't have the storage requirements that you do, but the company has shifted to doing a lot more internal marketing and I anticipate moving from a simple 3TB RAID 1 thunderbolt storage, to something like a Pegasus soon.

    The Mini has essentially been running full time for almost a year now. It has performed above and beyond expectations. The only headaches I had were in the beginning because of 10.8's poor SMB implementation and trying to support the last of the PCs in the department until they were all replaced. Now I hardly even look a the thing except for once a month to run updates. It's rock solid.

    For redundancy, we have a backup Mac Mini on standby. Part of the nightly backup is a bootable image of the server, so, that in the event of a failure, we can be back up and running in the amount of time it takes to restore a system image.
     
  17. chrfr macrumors 603

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    #17
    I wouldn't consider the Mini any more compromised as a server than the Mac Pro is. The $3000 you're spending on the Pro doesn't get you any sort of redundant power or LOM capability, though you do gain Thunderbolt 2 which isn't yet in the Mini. I'd rather have 2 minis than one Pro as a server.
    I run a 2012 Mini server at work attached to a Promise Thunderbolt RAID and it's been flawless for the better part of a year. Stability and performance is no different than a 2012 Mac Pro I'm also running as a server.
     
  18. dmylrea thread starter macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #18
    @sevoneone and @chrfr -- thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm a little more confident that a mini might be OK to go with. I'm hoping that next month, we will see a new mini model, hopefully with TB2 and some other goodies. Sure enough, as soon as we buy the current model, the new one will come out!

    We're looking towards a late-December 2014 migration from our old Mac Pro server.
     
  19. Silencio macrumors 68020

    Silencio

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    Location:
    NYC
    #19
    Why do you need to replace the Mac Pro itself? A 2009 Mac Pro is still a very viable machine for server applications, if you have enough space in the rack for it. Even the low-end, quad core 2.66GHz model with, say, 12GB of RAM is more than sufficient for serving files to 10 graphics users. We have similar machines here serving huge video files to far more Mac clients, we just have fast DAS storage attached and link-aggregated ethernet connections to our core network switch.

    All you really need to do is upgrade the storage you're using. If you're just serving Mac file sharing clients, then Mac OS X Server 10.6.8 is still more than sufficient. Just replace the Xserve RAID with something more compact, higher density, and modern. A six drive SAS or Fiber Channel RAID configured as RAID 5 or RAID 6 should give you good redundancy and more than enough storage space, depending on your budget.
     
  20. dmylrea thread starter macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #20
    Because it's old. As an IT Consultant for for the last 15 years, my general rule of thumb is to look at upgrading a company's server every 3-5 years, depending on growth of the company and the performance of said server after 3-5 years. From a reliability standpoint, an aging server is more prone to failure and from a performance standpoint, a new server is faster and has newer technology. Most of my clients have always agreed and like to stay ahead of the curve.

    In this case, we have a budget for a newer, faster server with more/faster storage, so we're not looking to recycle an old piece of hardware. While I agree that (for some smaller companies) taking a Mac Pro 2009 and loading it with Mavericks and some newer storage might work, that's not the direction we are looking for.

    If, as has been said here, that a new Mac Pro won't give us any better performance than a new Mac Mini, then that extra $3000 can be better spent elsewhere, and that kind of advice I appreciate. Maybe with the savings one of the graphics Mac Pro's can be upgraded to a new Mac Pro! :)
     
  21. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #21
    For your needs I think a Mini with a good redundancy plan would still be cheaper than a Pro and still offer the same performance.
     
  22. unplugme71 macrumors 68030

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    #22
    If you want fast data access, then I'd recommend a Mac Pro with TB2 to a storage array that has a mix of SSD's and HDD's or all SSD's.

    You'd also want something with multiple 1GB pipes to get fast access. I think some of the Synology devices offer 4x1GB connections. You can get a pretty quick pipe through that.

    At work, we run all FC on multiple directors/arrays for redundancy. I doubt you have the funds for $1.3mil to setup, so I'm not going to even mention how we have it.
     
  23. Silencio macrumors 68020

    Silencio

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    #23
    It's your money, but a Mac Pro running on well-conditioned power (e.g. enterprise level rack-mount UPS units) is generally going to last until it's so obsolete that it's too painful to use anymore.

    CPU performance is not your bottleneck here — not for simple AFP service. Even with the old Xserve RAID, it's most likely that your network connection is the main choke point. Xeon technology has not taken a quantum leap forward since 2009, really. You can get more cores per CPU and all of that, which is wonderful for building a render farm, but not so relevant for a file server.

    We still have a 2006 Mac Pro running a 26TB SAS RAID, our company FTP site, and other important network services. It's been a flawless and 100% reliable performer for us. We're going to migrate that system to a 2009 Mac Pro and keep on trucking for a few more years, at least. (Yes, we have cold spares on hand).

    If you must buy new, then you will need to look beyond the Mac. A higher-end Synology NAS or some other rack-mounted server running Windows or *NIX is the way to go. A 2013 Mac Pro is utterly wasted as a file server.
     
  24. dmylrea thread starter macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    Sep 27, 2005
    #24
    I'm a little confused what you mean by "1GB pipes". If the storage box connects with Thunderbolt to the server, what are the 1GB pipes referring to?

    And, you are correct, our budget is a bit shy of $1.3M. :)
     
  25. dmylrea thread starter macrumors 68020

    dmylrea

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    #25
    Two factors that, apart from the overall age of the hardware, push me to buy new hardware and start new is 1) Something is wrong with our OS X (10.6.7) and the directory service is broken such that we can't add or delete users, modify passwords, or really do much of anything with respect to accounts and groups without getting an error and the operation failing. Hence, we're currently stuck with the user accounts that are on it now. 2) We have an XServe RAID box full of old drives, and that scares me the most. I want to move on to SSD and Thunderbolt, and we can't do that on a old-style Mac Pro. I don't believe I've seen a TB PCI-e card yet.

    Since the server is a 2009, I can easily flash it and put in a 6 core XEON very cheaply. Instant performance boost. But, I need to address the storage. The old RAID card and low capacity SATA drive array isn't really where we want to stay. A 8 or 16 bay TB or TB2 rack mount box would be perfect.

    Something like a xMac mini Server looks like a very intriguing way to add expansion (ie. slots) to a Mac Mini. Not sure how well it works, but feature-wise, it looks nice.

    Thanks.
     

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