Lucid Nonsense

The Mac mini server

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Apple on Tuesday released a new type of Mac mini, one that comes bundled with Snow Leopard Server. It’s just over £690 and is the cheapest way to get a new Mac server. The hardware spec is ideal for small scale deployments; studios, classroom servers, small businesses, test systems etc. The processor is a pretty powerful 2.53Ghz Core 2 Duo, the included 4GB of RAM is ample for most small server functions, and the two included 500GB hard drives give a great deal of flexibility between either using RAID1 to mirror the system, or to split the system data and user data. It’s not got the level of redundancy or power of an Xserve, but for the market it’s targeted at it’s very good value for money.

The one obvious omission is an external interconnect that gave a few more options for attaching external storage. An eSATA or SAS connector would have vastly expanded the options for attaching low to mid-level RAID and JBOD units, and would have really finished it off from my point of view. As it is there is Firewire 800 still and Apple are selling a reasonable looking Promise SmartStor DS4600 alongside the mini, that looks reasonable. There’s also the Drobo and DroboPro that come with Firewire and USB connections, I just can’t help but think they’ve slightly missed an opportunity to open up the storage options a little.

In general though I’m probably being a little picky about the lack of SAS/eSATA. This is a great new addition to the Mac lineup and makes OS X Server even more accessible for smaller businesses where it can be a first class solution for mail, file sharing, calendaring and the whole raft of OS X Server’s tricks. It’s also very cost effective for schools and other organisations with predominantly Windows backends who don’t need specific services but would like to manage their Mac clients with an Open Directory deployment. We’ve already been asked by one client to supply one, and I can see them being the first of many.

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