Xserve Buying Advice

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by donkeytra, Aug 11, 2010.

  1. donkeytra macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2009

    I am looking into getting an Xserve for my design/multimedia studio (whenever its next refresh is), basically I am hoping it would completely replace our current Windows Server, and use it for file server, FTP server, mail server, as well as other general operations like Calendars, StreamTime/FileMaker stuff. I've come across a few questions like how should I config the Xserve and set up its RAID.

    Here is a little about us:
    - Currently 9 staff, expect to expand to 20 or so within the next few years
    - 4 Macs for designers, and 5 PCs for developers and managers
    - We do web, print, 3D, as well as HD video production. Currently only 2-3 people will be accessing large media files from server simultaneously.
    - All connected via Gigabyte ethernet cards
    - Our file size is close to 2T now, and I would say we will need one additional terabytes every yr.
    - Current backup system is: live server backups to a RAID5 NAS, another offsite HDD backup weekly.
    - We are considering Xserve so we can rack-mount it with our rendering machines. I'm aware of Xserve's noise, so we will lock it up in a separate room ;)

    So, any recommendation on the specs of the Xserve we would need? I am also really interested in tapping into the power of Xgrid, but haven't really looked into it tho. Has anyone tried it with 3D or AE rendering? Our Macs have been having connection problems to our Windows server, like it's unstable and real slow. Will Xserve play nice with both PC and Macs? Lastly, any recommendations on RAID options besides Promise? It's kinda expensive. Anything else I need to study?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. mlts22 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2008

    You might consider a DroboElite. The higher end models offer iSCSI on GigE which is decently fast. This device handles all the RAID for you, and can be mounted in the rack. You can also use multiple units and switching.
  3. hakuryuu macrumors 6502

    Sep 30, 2007
    Lomita, CA
    The Xserve will work for you as long as you aren't used to using anything like Exchange. If, like my company, you use basic email services it will be fine. And for calendaring the Macs will be fine of course, but I haven't spent much time trying to get any windows software to connect to it. You can always use the web interface for checking calendars but you won't get any alarms without using a program.

    I have noticed that sometimes windows machines can't browse to the SMB shares on my OS X machines, but if you type in the smb share path they have no problems. And if your Macs are the ones doing the majority of the file sharing then it seems like that would be a no brainer.

    Bottom line is that the Xserve will be good for you, but I wouldn't toss out the Windows server until well after you have tested everything you need.
  4. mlts22 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2008
    Now this is something I wish Apple could come up with:

    Make a 100% compatible Exchange application that can do syncing of mobile devices, calendering, secure messaging, archiving (for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance), contacts (including a GAL), replicating (so if one server dies, others can keep going, as well as hub/edge configurations.)

    If Apple could come up with something that could be interchanged with Exchange, I can see whole enterprises beating a path to the door and buying XServes by the thousands.
  5. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    That would be kind of a big project and won't happen ;)
  6. mlts22 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2008
    True. However, if someone managed to do this, be it Apple, Oracle, IBM (retooling Notes), or someone else, the maker of the Exchange replacement wouldn't just have a path beaten to their door, their door would be in component atoms with all the enterprise customers waving purchase orders for the product.
  7. Silencio macrumors 68020


    Jul 18, 2002
    Why? Kerio already did it. I've been using it for years at one of my client sites and it rocks.

  8. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Another "replacement" candidate is Zimbra ( yahoo bought it and then sold it recently to EMC )


    Neither one of these though was a likely Apple acquisition target since Linux (and additionally Windows in kerio's case) are also key deployment candidates for the respective products. The catch-22 is that if Apple bought them they'd want the server to be Mac OS X only. If deploying into vast majority of Exchange shops there are either already Windows or Linux admins there. Unless Apple got into the "Email Appliance" business that isn't a good fit. If bought and then killed off the other deployment options really doesn't bode will for long term product either.

    So the better fit is 3rd party solution.

    The other blocking issue is the migration costs. While there are tools to aid in the process with these two options it is a still an expensive product. Most folks are risk adverse to just sit still and run an increasingly older version of Exchange.
  9. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    What is the mix on the expansion? Are you going to go from 2-3 media folks to 15 and the developers/managers stays constant or expand at same ratio ?

    One option is to segment this into two servers. A small on for the mainstream stuff and another middle sized XServe for the heavier media stuff. That additionally lets you to possibliy segregate the media file serving traffic onto another network relatively easily. So a mini + midsize versus trying to cramp all server functionality into one server.

    If I recall correctdly Xgrid really only works well with apps that are invoked from the command line. Unless your rendering programs have explicit options for that you'd have issues. There are other programs out there explicitly for render job scheduling with specific rendering programs.

    Which Promise: The Vtrak E-Class or the SmartStor ?

    I thinking about an XSan set up then the E-Class isn't too expensive versus the rest of the gear and licenses you have to buy per client. For a 20 person email/file server though seems like massive overkill. Even if there is file serving to clients if the server is pumping it out through a single 1GB Ethernet connections .... still overkill. The SmartStor isn't that far off from other DAS options. A eSATA connection should be able to keep a 1GB Ethernet line full of data.
  10. Matty-p macrumors regular

    Apr 3, 2010
    Just get a quad core xserve (get 8 core if you want or use is as arender box with Xgrid not many programs support it tho) with 6 or 8 gb ram (twice as much if you want to use Xgrid) and a raid card

    Hard drive /storage wise firstly get a 64 or 128 gb ssd this will do three things 1 make it faster to boot and programs should start faster secondly it frees up space on your hard drives that you'd otherwise be using for boot / programs and lastly makes sure that th boot / programs drive is seperTe to your data drives mount SSd in 2.5" ssd bay

    Now for storage of files get 3 * 2tb drives install them in the front 3 3.5" bays now decide weather to put them in raid 0 or raid 5 raid 0 will give you all 6tb of all drives combined and will make acsess to them reall fast (faster than transfur speeds of gigabit Ethernet ) but and this is a big but I one drive fails you"ll have to have to format all drives insert new replacement drie and transfur The data onto it from your backups while your doing this your sera will be out of order .

    Or raid 5 wich "only" gives you 4tb of storage room but if a drive fails you server has no down time all you have to do is replace drive takes about 5 seconds and rebuild It automatically all this time all files are accessible as normal - I'd suggest raid five but you pick
    More info : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID?wasRedirected=true

    There you go cheap good server souloution with lots of storage space and no need to ease money and space and power on external raid

    Even with raid 5 that will last atleast two more years If in the future you need more storage space then either convert it to raid 0 giving you two more terabytes or buy 3* 3tb or 4tb whatever is available in two years time and that will give you 2 more tb if it's 3tb and raid 5 or 3 more tb if it's 3tb drives and raid 0 . 4 more terabytes if its 4tb drives and raid 5 or 6th more if its 4th drives and raid 0
  11. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    There are two issues to tackle with a Xgrid system. One is designating which box is the production job server that all the clients connect to. Second is where the work is done. When I read the initial post I was thinking the XServe here would be doing the first. Not that it would be a workhorse (there was already mention of a render farm), but the workhorse driver.

    There is a line have to careful with when a server is a core services machine. If it is running email , file serving , calendar, DNS , LDAP, etc. (i.e., critical services that several other devices depend upon) then running Xgrid jobs on it is slippery slope. If the job scheduler sees a gap between folks banging on the central server it may invoke a job there. If that was just a lull then will negatively impact the service quality levels.

    Overnight batch jobs on the server might be possible. However, that is typically where stick back-up jobs (because have acquisiece/low file update acivity) and other proactive maintaince jobs. Would need very low resource usage overlap between those to be safe.

    If just a job server then mainly need just additional RAM to keep track of things; no high computational load.

    If this is a 24/7/365 uptime server then you likely want your boot drive to be RAID 1. Need reliability and not necessarily minimum drive sled usage or fast boot times ( if booting then something is wrong in that context.). Lots of drive sled slots is what external storage boxes are for. XServe is a 1U server... it isn't going to be very good at internally storage very large amounts of data.

    I would see if can segment the data into a distinct volumes. One a fixed size could do with RAID 1 reasonably (i.e., something that will be fixed around 1-2TB over extended period of time) the other volume is the one you think will incrementally expand. For example that could be calendar , internal company info shared storage, or maybe email if put quotas on folks mailboxes. The other volume would be where put project data and perhaps network user home directories. Those are the more likely drivers of the 1TB/year growth. ( hopefully not email inbox storage driving that. :) )

    That would allow two RAID 1 set ups internal to XServe. One set for boot/apps (two SSD drives if want) and one set for fixed sized volume.
    Would get an external facing RAID/Storage card for the

    1. Doubtful you can rebuild 500-1500GB of data in 5 seconds out of checksum data. You can't even write that fast full blast through SAS/SATA that fast; let alone read and reconstruct and write. If an online rebuild going to take even longer. More likely rebuild much closer to hours than seconds.
    It is perhaps faster than a complete restore from backup, but won't be lightening quick.

    RAID 5 is primarily giving you more uptime, not necessarily faster restore time.

    2. The problem is that the starting point is 2TB and a 1TB/year growth rate. In two years would blow out the space and would be looking to move to an external enclosure anyway or swap out drives.

    If the starting point were 500GB years ( and willing to pass on uptime on system drive ) then this is a better option. After 3 years probably want to swap out the drives anyway. Could migration upgrade to a bigger set of disks at that time with a weekend project outage period.

    3. There are issues with using increasingly larger RAID 5 building blocks. The problem is that your rebuild times keep getting longer and longer. If there is a failure on one of the remaining "good" disks during a rebuild you loose the whole set. It can only tolerate one fail. So if rebuild goes from 1 hour to 2 hours your risk factor is growing.

    May want to consider using space quotas on home directories and/or project directories. People have a tendancy to collect stuff on disk. The old project from 2.5 years ago that haven't looked at in 2.4 years. Folks don't hit the "delete" button if keep giving them more space. An alternative is to create an "Archive" volume. Somewhere where files to to be warehoused because might want to look at it 4 years from now. That volume can be just a disk or JBOD and the associated incremental backup images. (if disk fails can get it back with a restore but doesn't have to be instantaneous/"real time". )

    That can allow to squeeze more time out of being restricted to a 3 bay set up if the growth rate is primarily completed projects want to leave online. Just leave them online somewhere else but the limited RAID 5 space.

    If decide need RAID 5 for reliable converting to RAID 0 is a downgrade in service level offering.

    P.S. back on the original description the current backup was to NAS.
    A minor issue that pops up is how that NAS presentation of the file system correctly (or not) copies metadata. ( change/touch dates, symlinks, hardlinks, etc. essentially info about the files).
  12. Matty-p macrumors regular

    Apr 3, 2010
  13. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    OK. However, that kind of brings up another point about possible external drive enclosures. It should probably take longer than 5 seconds on the XServe if have to find the key that unlocks the drives so you can pop them out. If the server rack room isn't secured then want a drives locked down so folks can't trivially walk away with them if they have sensitive data on them. Would not provide final line of security but prevents "what does this do?" and accidental kinds of drive removals.
  14. Matty-p macrumors regular

    Apr 3, 2010
    Sure it definitely needs locking - when I said five seconds what I meant was it was comparatively easier and has no downtime compared to raid 0 where it might well take 5 hour to format and rebuil ect

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