Virtual Machines: MacPro or iMac?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Tricone, Nov 24, 2011.

  1. Tricone macrumors newbie


    Feb 29, 2008
    I did do a forum search . . I swear! ;)

    But I'm planning on running Lion, along with Windows XP in a VM using either Fusion 4.x or Parallels 7.x. The computer will essentially be a database server in which 4-8 other iMacs will access. I was told that the main software that I will be using runs adequately on the latest few iterations of iMacs, along with MacPros.

    I am having difficulty decided what platform to use. I purchased a Mid-2011 iMac 3.4GHz Core i7 (12GB Ram, Thunderbolt ports), thinking that would certainly suffice. However, now I'm leaning towards the MP platform, mainly due to its expandability and ease of upgrading. (One thing that comes to mind is installing an eSATA card so that I can attach my quad-interface external backup drive, although FW800 should also suffice, albeit slower).

    I have a chance to purchase an Early-2009 8-core 2.66GHz (12GB Ram) on the cheap (but out-of-warranty), but also have family at Apple, and can get the 'friends and family' 15% discount on any new MacPro. I was leaning towards the Hex-Core 3.33GHz model. Of course, I'd also have to purchase a display to go along with the MP.

    Again, I have a new CTO iMac in the box. I can return it for a refund, but the window runs out fairly soon. Would all these machines run virtual machines without a hitch, or does one stand out? Oh . . one last caveat: as a business expense, I need to purchase before year's end. Otherwise, I'd wait to see if a new MP is introduced in 2012Q1.
  2. Draeconis macrumors 6502a

    May 6, 2008
    Your iMac is quite a bit more powerful and moderately cheaper than a Mac Pro. (Painful though that is to admit).

    FW800 is more than enough bandwidth for your backup drive, unless it's some crazy SSD RAID.

    If you already have it, I'd keep it. Just be aware maintenance will be more difficult, as I believe in this iMac revision they altered the SATA port so you could only use the HDDs supplied by Apple, so replacing it if/when it fails might be.. interesting.
  3. Tricone thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 29, 2008
    That's the *main* issue that I'm having with the latest iMac. In the past, with previous iterations, it's been relatively easy to swap hard drives. I've done a handful myself. Now, Apple is basically requiring you to buy a new iMac if you want to update the internal drive (that is until some third-party comes out with a workaround).

    In terms of the original question, though, would any of the Macs originally mentioned do fine running a Windows VM side-by-side with Lion? The Windows-based software is also basically a database i.e. not processor-intensive, but I would need to be able to print and network within Windows.
  4. Inconsequential macrumors 68000

    Sep 12, 2007

    I'd find a base 2.66GHz 2009 or 2.8Ghz 2010 for cheap. (Latter will still be under warranty - my April 2009 MP 2009 is still under warranty!)

    Then find a W3680 and flash the firmware if you get a 2009 model to allow it to use the 2010 processors.

    You *should* be able to do that for under $2k, if not $2.5k given the prices of the W3680 in the US.

    Then give it 12GB 1333Mhz ram, SSD boot drive (if necessary - speed up any disk IO in the VM too if it's running from it).

    If you give XP the full 4GB ram you need about 5GB to allow for any virtulisation overheads (My 6GB W7 setup consumes about 7.5GB if I max it out!).

    Personally, i'd have the MP in a server case, as if anything goes wrong it's far easier to swap a memory stick or CPU or whatever.
  5. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    one option is to keep the iMac and buy a Pegasus. that way you get fast IO and easily swappable drives. alternative is to get OWC to add an eSATA port. RAM isn't an issue since there are four slots and 8GB SO-DIMMS are available.

    if you were to buy a Mac Pro, why get a 6-core? you said yourself that the workload won't be processor-intensive.
  6. jonnymo5 macrumors 6502

    Jan 21, 2008
    Sounds like you will be using it as a server. Go with the pro. For DB I would worry about more cores than CPU speed. Also dual CPU to open the door for more ram. You can set up a raid as well which could help with speed or durability.

    Does your software require OSX? If not you could build a box and put Linux on it to make a mean little DB server.
  7. Tricone thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 29, 2008
    The family was over for Thanksgiving dinner. Pulled the trigger on a refurb 2010 MP 2.4GHz 8-core, using his employee discount. Pretty minimal specs otherwise, so I'll look to add some RAM and perhaps a SSD as the boot drive, although I'm not sure which one to get. (I keep hearing negative things about the OWC Mercury SSDs).

    My particular software does require OSX. In fact, I'm taking the leap and going from a Windows-based system to the Mac. I'm tired of IT issues!
  8. dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    That only applies to the base Mac Pro, aka the cheapest Mac Pro with only the quad core 2.8 GHz cpu in it when you configure both machines the same way and only watch the cpu and memory. If gpu power comes into the equation the Mac Pro is much faster. Also when you need more cpu power and/or more memory the Mac Pro is again the faster option.

    Memory and I/O are the two most important things for virtual machines. Since the Mac Pro is expandable to 64GB of memory with the dual cpu versions these are better suited than the iMac if you want to run lots of vm's. You can also put in 4 disks in the drive bays and thus have more storage than in the iMac internally (you can use the thunderbolt ports in the iMac to add storage). That actually leaves memory and the better graphics card as the only real benefit for the Mac Pro. In some use cases the amount of cores/cpus matters a lot.

    Basically it depends on what vm's and how many vm's you want to run. A Mac mini can be enough for what you want to do but in some cases you really need a very beefy system such as the Mac Pro. I use my Mac Pro (which is the basic version upped with the 5870 and 12GB of memory) and my mid 2010 MBP (ssd and 8GB of mem) for virtualisation. Both do a very good job. Obviously the Mac Pro does a better job as it is faster (much much faster in the graphics department). I've been using virtualisation since my first Mac back in 2006 (ran the beta version of VMware Fusion and since stuck with that).
  9. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    The iMac i7 3.4GHz is faster than the 3.2GHz Quad as well. Only the 6-core and 12-cores are faster with default graphics options. But in general the iMac is NOT a faster Mac. Sorry, you still roughly get what you pay for. There is no 3000.00 performance for 1600.00 cost option. That would mean building a PC.
    OP- Why did you get that 8-core? It is by far the worst of the bunch. Congrats and all but it is slower on multithreads than the 6-Core and slower on single threads than the base 2.8GHz. It is the worst of both worlds. There are so many threads and reviews on it.

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