SL Server vs Client on Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by MarqueIV, Jul 9, 2010.

  1. MarqueIV macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2009
    Ok, before I say anything, yes, I'm an architect level developer on both Apple and Windows platforms and I'm also a SysAdmin for a few small businesses. I know about TCP/IP routing tables, NAT, proxies and services are as well as what pointers to double-buffered rendering. I know the difference between Qt and FTP. I know what server-class services like DNS and a CalDav server are. I've set up Windows servers before (including Exchange! Ugh! Nightmare!!!) as well as SL Servers, including all services and configured them to centrally manage all the iMac clients and no, I didn't need to use the new 'wizards' or other hand-holding GUIs. I'm quite familiar with SSH and telnet and the console is my friend.

    In short, yes I know the difference between what a client OS is for and what a server OS is for.

    I have to pre-state that because of the bash-fest that went on over in this thread...

    ...where something similar was asked. While yes, the OP's initial comment was a bit off-putting, the ensuing outpouring of references to consumers vs admins, the store's web site page differences for the minis and my favorite recurring comment... the constant replies of 'if you have to ask, you don't need it!'... both funny and kind of sad at the same time, I swear... more ink (type?) was wasted on defending each other's position instead of helping answer the original question. And it makes me feel the need to overly and emphatically state that yes, I do actually know the difference, and yes, I know in my case, I need server! That isn't my question. (Wasn't that OPs either, but again, I do understand the comments even if I don't completely agree with how they were made.)

    That said, I'll try asking the same thing, but a little differently here.

    I am planning to run SL server here at my small business where I actually have several employees who all currently use iMacs. I need centralized management, patch deployment, network-based profiles, a FTP server, an intranet server and a wiki as well as other things like a shared calendar and inter-office chat. In short, I want SLS to act in the role of a server here.

    Now... In addition to the client machines, I have a three-year old Mac Mini with 2 GB Ram and a 250 GB hard drive (2.5", 4200 RPM notebook type.... i.e. slow!!) that's acting as a simple file share but is otherwise just sitting there doing nothing (except the occasional Hulu session on a projector.) But I also have as *my* client machine a Mac Pro with dual quad-core 3.2 GHz processors, 16GB of RAM and 5TB of space in two separate mirrored raid arrays. It's also sharing three printers and two scanners. Both the Mini and the Pro are left on 24/7 and no, neither are set to sleep. I'm also planning on wiping the Pro's system partition and reinstalling the OS anyway so I can upgrade to a bigger RAID array and sometimes it's just nicer to wipe the system (not the data tho!) and start fresh rather than to restore from a backup to get off all the old cruft, so installation isn't an issue either. Most importantly, I already own a retail license for SLS since I anticipated this need a few weeks back and bought one.

    Obviously it makes more sense to put SLS on the Mac Pro from a hardware PoV but also obviously, with such a small number of users, even the Mini could easily handle the role of server. It's not recommended by Apple (I actually asked one of their sr. SL Server techs about the mini on a tech call I made a few months back while configuring of those SLS mini setups for a client where we ran into DNS issues with a time capsule running with it) but it's possible and according to them, it should be fine for anything under 10-20 clients.

    My question is this (finally!!!...)

    *Asides* from the added services and the tweaks and optimizations that favor background server services over foreground applications (i.e. that it is configured optimally for a server OS and not a client...) are there any *technical* limitations to using the server OS as my main client OS on the Pro which could easily handle me doing client things while also acting as a server for such a small group? (Plus, I can then repurpose that mini for something else too!)

    Again, my Pro is on 24-7, and no, I don't do stupid crap on it that would make me have to reboot every five minutes or otherwise affect the clients (and even if I did, I know better than to do them during work hours when others are connected) nor do I again ever let the machine sleep since I call into them remotely all the time. The pro is a file and printer server already. Yes I know I can set up the SL client OS on the Pro for most of these server things with added software (and in a lot of cases, stuff that's already built-in to the client, like FTP or Apache.) And yes I also know it's *very* bad practice to use a server machine as a client and I even agree with that... in mid to large-sized businesses, but... (and I know I'll get flamed for this...) I think I can bend the rules in a very small configuration like this without blowing up the IT infrastructure, opening baby black holes in the space-time continuum of server-admin UTC time in the process.

    Again, that's not what I'm asking. Of course feel free to share your opinion on that. I'd never say not to, especially after reading that other thread since doing so is just an invite for a nice roasting by all the flames defaming my credentials and insulting my abilities.... but again, that isn't what I'm asking.

    Yes, SL server will run client software slower than SL client on the same machine because of all the extra background services and such, but I guarantee that Pro on it's worst day will still run software better than that Mini on its best! Again, not what I'm asking.

    What I am asking is *TECHNICALLY*, from an OS/systems point of view *only*... will or won't 3rd-party client-focused software work on SL Server: things like Xcode or Adobe Creative Suite CS5 or things like Chrome, iLife, OpenOffice or even just iTunes? Will the OS support it or is it too stripped-down client-wise?

    Some in the other threads say the core libraries aren't there in server--there's a bare minimum to make it *look* like the client GUI, while others say, yes, SLS basically has all the same core libs and frameworks as the client but *also* has all the extra, additional things for the server's services, plus the aforementioned preferences favoring them over the admin's GUI console (aka the desktop,) and also has all the client-centric things like bootcamp or iLife taken out as well (which I don't care about anyway. I'm interested in the frameworks and libs.)

    Again, in short, I am looking for technical limitations caused by what is *in* client, that *isn't* in server--core os-wise, not iLife/boot camp-wise--that would stop me from using that Mac Pro as both a client and a server.

    Stupid me didn't just ask the damn Apple server rep when I had him on the phone, and now I'd have to pay to call him back. Then again, crowd-sourcing answers is always more fun anyway. Where else can you be insulted for just asking questions??

    Speaking of... let the bashings commence!!! I'm ready! I have my protective cup on and everything!!!

  2. codeus macrumors newbie

    Dec 24, 2008
    I dont believe there are any core library omissions, just a base Snow Leopard install with additional applications and services for Server.

    Over the years I have run various client apps on a server for random reasons and I have never run in to a problem. Although that said, I have never deliberately set out to use a server as a client on an ongoing basis.

    That said, if your server is important, and you have more than one user depending on it to do their job, it is unwise to also use it as a client machine. Not impossible, but perhaps not very sensible.

    Clients like to do things like install apps (which require restarts etc) and install 3rd party applications that sometimes dont play nice with existing services and applications.

    Plus sometimes something will crash and you'll need to restart. Imagine the conversation like 'Sorry guys, Filemaker is doing that bogus license key clash thing again after I force quit it, so you'll have to wait a few mins while I reboot'. And if by 'network-based profiles' you mean network homes, they will be dead in the water until your client-come-server is back up.

    So my 10pence is yes, it should be possible to use SLS as your client, but you may be taking unnecessary risks with the smooth-running of your office.
  3. MarqueIV thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2009

    Thanks for your reply and info. The first part is what I was hoping would be the case.

    As for the second, as I said above...

    "And yes I also know it's *very* bad practice to use a server machine as a client and I even agree with that... in mid to large-sized businesses, but... (and I know I'll get flamed for this...) I think I can bend the rules in a very small configuration like this without blowing up the IT infrastructure, opening baby black holes in the space-time continuum of server-admin UTC time in the process."

    And no, I mean specialized profiles we use. The homes are all local on the machines which can run autonomously if needed.

    Still, thanks for the info. Much appreciated.

  4. codeus macrumors newbie

    Dec 24, 2008

    It wont be the server OS that stops you using it as a client machine. But you using it as a client may prevent it from being as effective at being a server as a seperate machine, free from the those pesky fleshy h00manns might be.

    Good luck.
  5. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    A few months ago I added a mini with SLS to my home network (note, I don't have a typical "home"). SLS does differ from the client OS in file sharing (shouldn't be much of a surprise there), printer sharing, remote administration, and TimeMachine abilities both for backing up on the server and for backing up other systems.

    It seems to run client software, but I must admit I've tried very little on it. It does come with iTunes, but not the iLife suite.

    My mini has the two internal drives set up in RAID 0 but it is still slower than an external FW800 drive. I've got 4TB on externals, but lets face it, a Mac Pro is much more sensible, if not far more expensive, for this. Accessing any of the mini's drives from my iMac gives about the same performance as an external FW800 on the iMac, so I don't feel that using the mini as a server slows things down.

    I just don't like the idea of using a server as a client. I've had 15 years experience with servers as servers. But for several years I had a high end workstation (Dell) running Linux that was also acting as a server for some tasks in my workgroup. Doing this was very unhappy for all because of the performance hit both as a workstation (difficulty in making alterations without affecting others) and as a server (if I was hitting the system hard, server performance went to zero).

    If I were in the OPs position, I'd install SLS on the mini and use it also as the printer server, moving that off of the Mac Pro. I'd even experiment with the scanners (scanner serving works here, but is touchy). Assuming you don't need "fancy" permissions, the large RAID arrays on the Pro could be shared as you are doing now.

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