macOS server in MacPro 2012 or virtualized in KVM/Qemu?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by overshoot, Jun 9, 2019 at 7:01 AM.

  1. overshoot macrumors newbie

    Oct 11, 2018

    I need to set up a file server for my company.
    We have around 10 users, with only 2 PCs (accounting). We use a gigabit switch so nothing crazy like 10GbE.
    We have a few Web Designers who need to have access to files relatively quick.

    I have 2 machines lying around to do that job which are a MacPro 2012 and a Dell Poweredge T430.
    The MacPro 2012 is still a great machine but it will soon be abandoned by Apple as it won't be supported with the new OS Catalina. Still we might be able bypass the limitation but I am thinking of getting 2 years maximum out of that Mac Pro. Who knows?!
    The Dell Poweredge on the other hand is a more recent machine (2015) with hardware Raid and more horsepower but it does not support macOS.

    So, what are my options? I guess I have 3...
    - using the Mac Pro with macOS Server
    - using the Dell Poweredge with FreeNAS (not my favorite choice)
    - using the Dell Poweredge with Linux to virtualize macOS using KVM/Qemu

    I kind of want to avoid FreeNAS for compatibility reasons as I don't know what to expect from macOS updates with their Samba Server. I feel more confident that Apple won't break the compatibility between version.
    But since my best Mac Server option is the Mac Pro and it's kind of outdated (even though it is still very capable with the NVME drive as system disk and a bunch of PCIE cards like USB 3.1), I am thinking that using a more recent hardware would be a better. The Dell Poweredge is a 2015 model with a Xeon v3 (upgradable to 2 CPUs) and plenty of disks space + RAM.

    I've been using FreeNAS in the past and I am not a fan even though it might be good enough for what I need it for.

    So I am starting considering a KVM/Qemu setup to virtualize macOS and ultimately have another linux guest OS to do other things. But I am kind of worried to use that in a business environment as I have no idea how stable it could be.

    So any feedback on the stability of macOS Mojave in any virtualize environment?
  2. chrfr macrumors 604

    Jul 11, 2009
    I’d skip all of your old hardware and get something like a Synology NAS, but of course your budget may not allow for that.
    Setting up a server with the 2012 Mac is just not a good strategy at this point, nor is virtualizing macOS for this.
    Windows Server works perfectly adequately, if that’s what’s on the Dell now. Otherwise, I’d give FreeNAS a try.
  3. overshoot thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 11, 2018
    Thanks for your quick reply.

    Actually we had an issue with Windows Server and file locks using Adobe software. We had to buy that expensive 1000USD license from Acronis Connect to allow us to get AFP on Windows and solve those issues. It has to be renewed every year and that's why I am considering going back to macOS Server now. Windows Server use its own SMB protocol which is different from the open source version that Mac clients and FreeNas use.
    So between Windows Server and FreeNAS, I'll pick FreeNAS for sure.

    Though I really want to hear what people have to say about macOS in a virtualize environment. Is it really a gamble or can it be somehow stable enough if well set up?!
  4. chrfr macrumors 604

    Jul 11, 2009
    Performance of a virtualized Mac environment is quite poor, even if you can get it running reliably in Qemu.
  5. hobowankenobi macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2015
    on the land line mr. smith.

    No question my mind that the value is better: SMB, AFP, Drive file sync tool, etc. Snapshot backups, and tons of other features thay might be valuable, including links to downloads and more.

    While the Dell would work, I would hestitate to dive into Win Server because of cost and less than ideal support for a mixed platform environment. Free NAS seems like a better option...but have not used it, so hard to recommend.

    If it were me, I would want to sell the MacPro while it has value, and buy a good Syno box with about 4 drive slots for redundancy and future growth.
  6. amedias macrumors regular


    Feb 9, 2008
    Devon, UK
    I beg to differ, with KVM it's possible to get very close to bare metal speed. Plenty of people are even running macOS virtualised but with pass-through GPU and USB card and using it as their main machine but under KVM, there's some hackintoshing going on there but that'll be a necessity if running under KVM. ESX would allow you to run 'native' MacOS with no hacking and performance isn't bad, the only area it's alcking is when actually using the desktop console as there's no hardware acceleration for GUI, but how often do you interact with the gui on your server?

    What specific software and protocols did you get poor performance with, and under what virtualisation setup?
  7. hobowankenobi macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2015
    on the land line mr. smith.
    While some may not care, last I checked, it was a breach of the EULA to run MacOS on non-Mac hardware, including VMs.

    Is this still the case?

    If so, beyond any legal issues, it could make stability and patching and possibly security problematic, not unlike what the hackintosh community faces. Not exactly what I would recommend for a production server.
  8. Flint Ironstag macrumors 6502a

    Flint Ironstag

    Dec 1, 2013
    Houston, TX USA
    Why mess with unknowns? You already have a Mac that will run Mojave (it'll get updates for years). Sounds like you're most comfortable setting everything up on that already. Install the server app and go to town. Take snapshots and have a VM ready to spin up on the Dell in case of hardware failure. Done, Son.
  9. hobowankenobi, Jun 11, 2019 at 4:30 PM
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019 at 6:59 PM

    hobowankenobi macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2015
    on the land line mr. smith.
    Server won't add anything with regard to file sharing. That got stripped out of Server at a while back...just use the Finder now. Not exactly server grade granular control.

    Take Not built in. Third party software?

    With BTFS on Syno...snapshots are built in. Plus other backup options. Along with loads of other features handy for a file server that Macs don't have.

    Historically Mac OS file serving has been fiddly about permissions. The one essential tool in Server was the sharing admin tool that allowed for setting/changing/testing permissions. It got pulled from Server...just make permissions management worse for the admin.

    Synology has been much better (pain free) for me in the exact same environment, And I ran every version of Server from 10.2 to 10.12. This alone is worth making the switch...but then add all the other benefits, including the ability to grow a RAID volume on the fly with no down time? Game over.
  10. Mikael H macrumors 6502a

    Sep 3, 2014
    - I really wouldn’t set up a 2012 Mac Pro as a business file server in 2019.
    - I really wouldn’t virtualize macOS on non-Apple hardware in a business setting since it violates their EULA.

    Apple made SMB their preferred file sharing protocol a while back. What’s wrong with installing your favorite Linux distro on the Dell and just running a recent version of Samba for serving files? If you’re able to set up KVM/Qemu you’re surely capable of configuring a little file server? And with not a lot of additional tweaking you can make it the backup target for your Macs, as long as you’ve got sufficient bandwidth for the necessary machines. Combine that with a good on+off-site backup scheme and you’re good to go.

Share This Page

9 June 9, 2019