Xserver vs. NAS

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by Digital Randy, Feb 10, 2004.

  1. Digital Randy macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2002

    I am looking for some realistic justifications for purchasing an Xserve over a NAS box. For roughly half the price of an Xserve (2x2Ghz, 1Gb RAM, Hardware RAID, 3x250Gb SATA, UltraSCSI PCI, OS X Server Maint. $6500) I can get an Iomega NAS ($3700) with the same amount of storage.

    I understand that OS X Server software gives me a full email, web and FTP server, but I don't need those things.

    I'd like to get the Xserve, but I have a hard time justifying the cost.

  2. supatekmedia88 macrumors newbie

    Jan 6, 2004
  3. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    Re: Xserver vs. NAS

    If an NAS will satisfy your needs, then an Xserve is wa-a-a-a-ay more computer than you need.
  4. bankshot macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2003
    Southern California
    Re: Xserver vs. NAS

    Basically, you need to ask yourself several questions:
    • What kind of clients do you need to support?
    • How much uptime/availability do you need?
    • Would it be useful to have the machine available for tasks other than a file server?
    • What's your primary OS environment at your site?
    • Do you have a Windows tech ready to install patches, kill viruses, etc?
    I just got done configuring a Dual 2.0 GHz G5 Power Mac with 2 GB memory and 500 GB internal disk + 2.5 TB Xserve RAID for my team at work. Total cost including Panther Server and a 23" Cinema display was about $20k. We ordered this in December (the money disappeared at the end of the year, no waiting for MWSF) so G5 Xserve wasn't an option and we didn't get the extra TB of space on the RAID. Kinda stinks, but that's life. This is at a company where Windows rules the land, with the exception of some Unix (Sun/SGI/Linux) and some IBM mainframes. Management agreed that we needed the server, but we were asked to justify going Mac instead of Windows.

    Here's what we told them:
    • We use Suns and SGIs in our group. The machine must be able to serve them over NFS well. Windows Services for Unix seemed a bit sketchy based on some research. Advantage: Mac OS X (native Unix).
    • We also have PCs, so it does need to serve Windows files as well. Tied.
    • We mostly need lots of storage space, not highly taxing data transfer rates. Even when serving a lot of files at once, the machine is unlikely to be very taxed, and should be available for other work. Since our main data processing is done on Unix, that can be done directly on a Mac OS X machine too. So we get an extra compute node, advantage Mac.
    • Price comparison: we hadn't seen the Iomage NAS units, which do seem attractively priced at smaller sizes. However for the same amount of storage we were looking at (2.5 TB or more), both Dell and IBM solutions started around $30k. Sun and SGI were even higher. And that's not including a nice display like we priced for the Mac. Advantage: Mac.
    • OS X integrates seamlessly with our existing Unix network, utilizing our NIS setup for accounts, NFS automounts to other workstations, etc. Advantage: Mac.
    • I found a ZDNet article claiming that approximately 450 new Windows viruses come out each month. This requires constant patching and frequent downtime for Windows. No known viruses exist for OS X. Big advantage: Mac.
    • EDIT: Oh, and the SuperDrive allows us to easily archive important datasets to DVD.
    For us, it was a no brainer. Management was convinced too, and I have a feeling this may be the first G5 at our facility of over 1,000 people (my team is only about 10, though). The G5 easily blows the Suns and SGIs out of the water in terms of compute speed, so it's become our data processing server of choice. It also beats the crap out of our 5 year old Onyx2, which originally cost $200k, for 3D data visualization. The admin tools for OS X Server are very straightforward and they can run over the network from my PowerBook, which is nice. And the Windows/Unix filesharing works like a dream with the Xserve RAID.

    While I'd love to see you go with a Mac, if all you really need is some storage on the network, the NAS may be smarter. Mac people always like to talk about total cost of ownership, where you setup the Mac and it "just works" as opposed to a Windows box that needs constant monitoring. But if you're primarily a Windows shop anyway, adding one more Windows-based server probably isn't going to impact support costs too much. And while Xserve RAID is definitely the best bang for the buck when all maxxed out, those NAS prices do look pretty attractive when you're talking under a terabyte.

    Anyway, I hope this helps, and hope you make the right decision!
  5. Digital Randy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2002
    A few more details...

    First thanks for all the replies and sharing your experiences.

    I didn't want to jade the original discussion with the details of the platforms involved, because in theory it shouldn't really matter.

    We are a marketing and design firm, with a 90/10 split Mac vs. PC. As I say, this shouldn't matter, but I am looking for any reasons to either not go with the NAS (file compatibility, etc.) or a compelling reason to stick with Apple.

    Thanks again!!

  6. Lanbrown macrumors 6502a

    Mar 20, 2003
    I don't know which model you were looking at, but look at the OS that runs the box; they run on Windows. The box probably works great on a Windows network but probably quickly falls off on other platforms. You are relying on MS to provide functional file services. There's a lot you could offer with an X-serve that a windows powered NAS could not, like LDAP.

    Here is what you get for half the price:

    "Can I install Microsoft Windows Updates or Service Packs on my Iomega NAS or DataSafe?"

    "Iomega® does not recommend the installation of full Microsoft® Service Packs on the Iomega NAS.

    The Iomega NAS devices are installed with a version of MS SP2 Plus which includes a number of critical updates and security patches incorporated in MS SP-3. MS SP3 and 4 have been seen to adversely impact performance on the Iomega NAS and cause problems upon boot up.

    However, Iomega recognizes the requirement of our customers to install certain MS Critical Updates and/or Security Patches. We recommend that each Critical Update and Security Patch be evaluated on specific case by case basis for necessity in your network environment. These updates are tested by Microsoft and should work correctly on the Iomega M series product.

    As when performing any software installation or update, Iomega strongly recommends backing up your data and shutting down any other running applications on your Iomega NAS device. Please see the Microsoft Updates Web site for additional information and recommendations on installing updates.

    Iomega will test any specific patches or updates specific to our product and provide them to our customers at:"

    I have no idea where they get this figure:
    "Ongoing maintenance as little as four hours per year!"

    Keeping that box up-to-date should take muck more than that per year. In fact, look at the new vulnerability announcement that was just released today. MS knew about it six months ago and has taken them this long to release a fix. The vulnerability is a very serious one as well.
  7. csubear macrumors 6502a


    Aug 22, 2003
    I would stay away from the Xserve if all you want is storage. Get an XRaid, good price/performace/storage. I have one at work and it works flawless with our G4's.
  8. lduncan macrumors member

    Jun 17, 2003
    ChCh New Zealand
    I have been administring a prepress network running from a windows based fileserver. Here are some problems you may encounter.

    -Long filenames, services for Macintosh do not support long filenames, this becomes anoying if any of you workstations are running OS 10

    - Files serving speed, services for Macintosh is extremely slow. There is other software you can use, but cost a fair amount, and is also another, per user licensing scheme.

    - High maintenance, I spend way too much time making sure everything is running smothly, and I'm sick of it.

    We've just placed an order for a new xServe G5 2GHz single, and xServe RAID, to replace this fileserver, which is only a year old.

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