In a Post Xserve Era
“What I really need is an Xserve”
I’m sure this thought has popped into some System Admins heads since Apple killed the only true rack mountable Mac, back in January of this year. So what did Apple replace the Xserve with?
Two very poor substitutes, the Mac Pro and the Mac Mini. Lets take a look at the Mac Pro.
The Mac Pro is the closest match to the Xserve in terms of power and it’s more expandable then the Xserve but it’s hardly compacted. Its more then 19” tall and only just under 19” deep which would not leave any room for cables. So you could not mount it horizontally in a standard 19” rack, your only solution is to mount it standing up right on a shelf which takes up 12U. Not an attractive option when your lacking physical space.
So what about the Mac Mini? It’s small enough and there are some excellent rack mounting solutions as shown in the picture below.
But in no way is it comparable in terms of power or expandability.
So what’s a System Admin to do?
Well there are other options. The first one is a bad one, but I’m sure its a idea thats came up before and might even be implemented somewhere.
Buy a PC rack mountable server or create a Virtual Machine and load a copy of Hackintosh. This will be a maintenance nightmare and not a good option for mission critical applications and services.
Second option, Wait! The Mac Pro according to Mac Rumors buyers guide will soon be refreshed and according to Wikipedia, the aesthetics of the Mac Pro have not changed since the introduction of the Power Mac G5 way back in 2003. We can only hope that a change in case design is in the works and that the future design will be rack mountable. I recon WWDC ‘11 will see a massive Mac refresh with only the Macbook Pro and Macbook Air not seeing a meaningful update
Third option, MacBook Pro. A very over looked option. It has more power then the Mac Mini. Admittedly it’s not as powerful as the Mac Pro and its not as expandable as the Mac Pro. Or is it? The MBP (Macbook Pro) was the first Mac to be equipped with Thunderbolt. This will not change the power of the Macbook Pro but does enable it to do some cool stuff. Like access storage a ridiculous speed without having to deploy expensive fibre technology. Watch this demo of thunderbolt working with RAID device from Promise to see it in action.
There are currently no real Thunderbolt rack mountable raid devices but its only a matter of time before there is. Another benefit from choosing the MBP option is built in Uninterrupted Power Supply from the battery, Which is ultra efficient compared to standard UPS solutions. In fact, Google uses a similar setup in their data centre.
Regular USP solutions waste energy through converting AC current to DC current and also produce heat which may require you to beef up your cooling solution(s). The following is the process of conversion of a regular UPS.
- The USP converts mains AC to DC to charge a battery bank.
- During a power failure the UPS converts the DC back to AC from the batteries to Power the device.
- The device’s power supply then converts the AC to DC again to power internal components.
With the MBP the is no conversion; it runs on DC. The MBPs external power supply does the conversion of AC to DC but you could have a ultra efficient power system by supplying 12v DC (just like what is generated in a car) straight to the MBP using the Apple MagSafe Airline Adapter
Heres a specification comparison chart with applicable specs maxed out
In conclusion, if you find the Mac Mini is too under powered for your needs and you require high capacity in a small foot print. The MacBook Pro is the best current solution for you.
Please share you thoughts in the comments
Wikipedia.org Article G5 Power Mac
Mac Mini rack mount picture from Macgasm.net Article Sonnet announces RackMac mini, a clever 1U enclosure for Apple’s smallest server
Rack mounted Mac Pro image from Creative Video