Is a server what I need?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by AlexEng, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. AlexEng macrumors newbie

    Dec 18, 2013
    Sorry for the long post, but I figure the more detail I give about the setup I'm trying to create, the better advice you can give.

    I'm due for a computer upgrade soon, and although I usually go for a powerful macbook pro, I am thinking a Mac Pro server + Macbook air might solve a few issues I have with my home setup.

    I have two main computing stations:
    1. my home theater PC & media server
    2. my main laptop computer to do work on (sometimes connected to an external display if more screen real estate needed).

    HTPC & Media Server
    Currently I have an old PC as my HTPC and media server. I use plex. It currently has issues with large video files (1080p) I like having blu-ray rips. I need this computer to have the ability to play these high quality files. In addition I need it to simultaneously transcode these high quality files to push over the network to various devices. Eg. HTPC connected to main TV + someone watching TV in other room using Plex on ROKU + someone in their bedroom watching TV on their iPad. I would like this to be expandable to add more Rokus eventually so it will have to be a pretty powerful computer.

    Note: For storage I currently have a synology NAS

    Main Laptop Work Computer
    I currently use a MacBook Pro as my main computer. For the most part I don't need the power it has as I am only doing standard things on it. HOWEVER, their are times (lets say 10% of the time) when I do need to use it to run AutoCAD, Revit, PoweCAD and occasionally Photoshop & Final Maker Pro. This laptop is my life and goes with me everywhere and gets plugged into an external display when needed. Because I take it with me everywhere it would be nice if it were smaller and more portable - but I NEED the power to run the above programs.

    Is this the Solution?
    I was thinking a Mac Pro server + Macbook air could solve most of my issues - but i am not entirely sure. So I have a few questions.

    1. The MacBook Air would simply run as a "dummy" machine - so if I were using Revit on it, the Mac Pro would technically be running it? This way I could use heavy pro applications on an air?

    2. If the above assumption is correct, I could also do this when I am away from my local network? I think this is called VPN? I could be away and use Revit on my Air (because it would remotely be running on the Mac Pro back home)

    3. How fast and useable is doing the above through VPN? I've had experience where you could access applications from home on school computers using VPN - however, it was pretty slow and frustrating (wasn't very practical to actually get a lot of work done). Have things improved?

    4. The Mac Pro will be powerful enough to simultaneously run:
    a) Pro level applications
    b) A Media Server where it has to trans code up to 3 high quality 1080p files.
    c) Play a 1080p file locally on the display its connected to (the main TV)

    Thank you for any advice or input
  2. Attonine macrumors 6502a

    Feb 15, 2006
    Kent. UK
    I'll just answer point 1). I'm sure others will add to this.

    The server/client doesn't work like this for what you need. You would need REVIT and all the other applications installed on the MBA, and so these applications would be reliant on the power of the MBA to function.
  3. AlexEng thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 18, 2013
    Ah. I guess the only way to achieve this would be through some sort of VNC. But my past experience with VNC was pretty crappy - laggy and really not that useful.

    Is there anything that could work like VNC, but better?
  4. Attonine macrumors 6502a

    Feb 15, 2006
    Kent. UK
    Again, other users will be able to provide more information, but remotely accessing the MP, or server computer will not really viable for the kind of things you are looking to do.
  5. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    Is this no longer supported?

    Have you tried LogMeIn?
  6. jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    You're probably thinking of traditional client/server architecture. This is where a server does most of the work, and a client application is installed on workstations. In this type of environment, it's also common for the client applications to be loaded from the network, allowing users to "float" between different client machines. Netware was the pinnicle of this type of architecture.

    10-20 years ago, this was a comon architecture within medium-large businesses.

    Traditional client/server has been dying for years, though, replaced largely by web servers accessed by web browsers. The development cost of client/server is prohibitive vs. the web server approach.

    There are solutions today that do something similar without needing separate client and server applications. But they are all basically just remote desktops. Proprietary solutions can be more efficient than VNC, but it's still just running an application on a server and shipping screen I/O over the wire.

    Today, there is little to no difference between a "server" OS and a regular OS. Maybe some difference in default configuration details, maybe some additional included applications. For example, "OSX Server" today has been reduced to simply a set of applications that are installed on top of OSX, and that provide some functionality useful on "servers", whatever those are...
  7. AlexEng thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 18, 2013
    it looks like I won't be getting away from the Macbook Pros.... (Not necessarily a bad thing though)

    It's starting to look like the best solution is to just get a new MBP and a Mac Mini Sever for the TV.

    I've been trying to do a bit of research on the Mac OS Sever. And it really seems to me that the actual server machine doesn't do much.

    I guess, my question is. What's the benefit of getting a top end Mac Pro for the server vs. just getting a Mac Mini Server?
    - Storage doesn't matter, as I have a synology NAS and each user has their own partition.
    - Most of the actual "computing" is done on the client machine anyways it seems

    Although I need a server machine to do quite a bit of video transcoding. It looks like it's cheaper to just get a Mac Mini Server to run different login accounts. And to purchase an additional Mac Mini (or cheap PC even) for each TV to run plex on (this way it would read the video right off the NAS and avoid transcoding).
  8. jtara, Dec 22, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2013

    jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    I wouldn't buy a Mac Mini "server" at this point. The only hardware difference is that it has two 1TB hard drives. And a slower processor than the top-end "non-server".

    It also comes with OSX Server pre-installed, which is really a non-issue, since the Server software is just a free add-on starting with Mavericks. And, frankly OSX Server software is probably completely irrelevant for your application.

    There is no such thing as a Mac Pro "server" in the new Mac Pro line.

    Um, because it's a whole lot faster?

    There is some limited client-server software available from Apple (and others) for specific niche applications. For example, you can do distributed XCode builds across multiple machines if you are a software developer.

    Though I don't have any specific knowledge (I don't have any reason to do video editing) I wouldn't be surprised if there are video editing solutions that will distribute rendering to multiple machines. Well, actually, I would assume this is the norm. It certainly is in Linux and Windows-based video editing software. When I worked at Sony, my desktop Linux machine was a pull-out from an old render farm.

    The two examples above are similar to traditional "client/server" but with the added advantage of being able to distribute the work to multiple machines. But this is very much a niche that requires specific support in specific applications. It doesn't "just work" with any application.

    This approach doesn't require a "server". Just one or more additional machines to distribute the workload to.

    If you just want an always-on machine in your home, go for the Mac Mini. It certainly will be a lot cheaper to run (electricity).

    If you need the power of the Mac Pro, get the Mac Pro. It certainly isn't going to be any significant burden for it to also handle your always-on tasks, such a media server.

    If you are going to be doing video editing, obviously the best performance will be from the Mac Pro. An alternative might be a bank of Mac Minis, assuming there is distributed video editing software available.
  9. Attonine, Dec 23, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2013

    Attonine macrumors 6502a

    Feb 15, 2006
    Kent. UK
    I did't mention a Mac Mini earlier because you had mentioned you want to be able to transcode several videos at the same time. I have no idea whether a Mac Mini is up to this task.

    Look more deeply into regular OS X as many sharing and server tasks can be set up without the server being activated. Mac Mini's are certainly more than up to the task of running always on media servers and home theatre applications.

Share This Page