Small 10.4 Server - eMac, Mac mini, or PowerMac G4?

mkuron

Registered
I am going to be setting up a Mac OS X Server on a small network (about five clients) soon. It will need to provide DHCP/DNS, OpenDirectory authentication, AFP (for the users' home folders), and iChat to the local network. Maybe VPN. Possibly FTP to the internet.

They haven't decided yet what hardware they want for the server - an Xserve would be overdimensioned for this network and the budget also does not allow for it.
The ideas we had are:
  • eMac
  • Mac mini (with a firewire hard drive for the boot and data volumes (as the internal hard disk is probably be too slow))
  • PowerMac G4 (from eBay)

Anybody here set up a server on one of these "lesser" machines before?

Michael
 

Captain Code

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Staff member
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Any of those machines should be able to handle only 5 clients. The Mini may be bottlenecked by the hard drive so you should consider an external Firewire drive if it's going to act as a file server.

The thing that really taxes a server is a database so if you're not doing that then those computers should be able to handle the load quite well.
 

nixgeek

Mac of the SubGenius! :-)
Go for a previously owned G5 tower if you need. Or you could get one of the original Xserve machines based on the G4. Those should be significantly cheaper and fast enough to run as a server. The mini is too underpowered for such use (slow hard drive) and no expandability internally. Same with the eMac. Both of these are meant to be consumer machines. A Power Mac G4 might do it, but if you must I would probably recommend a dual processor system.

Regardless, consider that you'll have a faster bus and a 64-bit processor if you go for the Power Mac G5. I believe there were some dual 1.8 GHz systems.

Low End Mac has a list of vendors that sell older Macs. Check them out at http://www.lowendmac.com.
 

mkuron

Registered
Captain Code said:
Any of those machines should be able to handle only 5 clients. The Mini may be bottlenecked by the hard drive so you should consider an external Firewire drive if it's going to act as a file server.
Will there be any problem because these consumer Macs are not intended to run 24/7 like a server would (processor dying eary, etc.).

Captain Code said:
The thing that really taxes a server is a database so if you're not doing that then those computers should be able to handle the load quite well.
Other than the OpenDirectory database, no.

Michael
 

Captain Code

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Staff member
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mkuron said:
Will there be any problem because these consumer Macs are not intended to run 24/7 like a server would (processor dying eary, etc.).

No, it doesn't matter if it runs all the time. I've had my G4 Sawtooth running non stop at 100% CPU either running SETI@home or RC5 and it's still going strong.

The only thing that will happen is that the HD will probably die earlier BUT the drives in the XServes are the same ATA-133 or now SATA(I think) that are in the towers.
 

mkuron

Registered
nixgeek said:
Go for a previously owned G5 tower if you need. Or you could get one of the original Xserve machines based on the G4. Those should be significantly cheaper and fast enough to run as a server. The mini is too underpowered for such use (slow hard drive) and no expandability internally. Same with the eMac. Both of these are meant to be consumer machines. A Power Mac G4 might do it, but if you must I would probably recommend a dual processor system.
The used Xserve G4s and PowerMac G5s are still pretty expensive.
But the PowerMac G4s are available at eBay for less than $700 (This one is a dual 1GHz with 1.5GB RAM, it even includes a display, and sold for less than $650).

nixgeek said:
Low End Mac has a list of vendors that sell older Macs. Check them out at http://www.lowendmac.com.
Thanks for the link!

Michael
 

mkuron

Registered
Captain Code said:
The only thing that will happen is that the HD will probably die earlier BUT the drives in the XServes are the same ATA-133 or now SATA(I think) that are in the towers.
Should I get a hard drive that is suitable for 24/7 use / servers? I think I'll be going with a used PowerMac G4.

Michael
 

Captain Code

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Staff member
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mkuron said:
Should I get a hard drive that is suitable for 24/7 use / servers? I think I'll be going with a used PowerMac G4.

Michael
I wouldn't worry about it. The drives do last a long time typically. Since you are probably going with a Powermac tower you could consider a RAID card which will give you redundancy in case a drive does fail. Also consider that you will want to have a backup plan in place for any important data if there is any.
 

mkuron

Registered
Captain Code said:
I wouldn't worry about it. The drives do last a long time typically.
How long does a typical hard drive last?

If I buy the PowerMac from eBay, I will probably replace it's hard drive with a new, larger one. If I'm buying one anyway, what would the price difference between a server ATA hard drive and a standard ATA hard drive be?

Michael
 

Go3iverson

Registered
So there are many ways you can go with this. The only machine in that list I would use is a PowerMac. I used to run district13computing.com on an 867MHz PowerMac G4. You'll want something that can hold more than one drive so that you can support a mirror boot raid, for redundancy against drive failure.

I'd say try and find a used PowerMac G5 on ebay, or get a dual G4, which i've used in the past for directory service replication, font serving and netbooting (three different boxes). Those machines will all give you GigE networking.

The G5 will give you the faster bus, faster chip, etc etc etc. Its all a matter of price constraints and what you need. You could always get a SATA card for the PowerMac G4, which will give you a better performing drive to boot off of. If you are going to look at buying 'server' drives, like Apple Drive Modules, you may as well look at an Xserve itself, as those drives can cost you a few hundred bucks each. I've seen Xserve G4's on eBay before at reasonable prices.

I will say that migrating my server to dual G5's is quite noticeable, performance wise with the Server platform. :)
 

Jeffo

Registered
here is what i would suggest. go to small dog and get an older Xserve. The reason I suggest this even though you were talking about the cost being a main factor, is because their systems come with OS X Server which is another $500 smackers (for the 10 client) so when you factor that in it may not be that much more expensive.

If you do go with one of the other systems i think a Mini would be a good way to go because it is inexpensive (even if it would prematurely die) and your data would be on the external drive so it would not be lost. For only 5 users i think it would do very well, unless they were all feeding video to and from it. I am running a Blue and white G3/450 with a gig of ram as my LAN and WAN server and it does just fine. most of the time it is just sitting idle. I put a giganet card in it and the only time the processor really gets blasted is when i do a large file copy when sitting at my dual 867 G4 which also has a giganet card.
 

mkuron

Registered
Go3iverson said:
I'd say try and find a used PowerMac G5 on ebay, or get a dual G4, which i've used in the past for directory service replication, font serving and netbooting (three different boxes). Those machines will all give you GigE networking.

The G5 will give you the faster bus, faster chip, etc etc etc. Its all a matter of price constraints and what you need. You could always get a SATA card for the PowerMac G4, which will give you a better performing drive to boot off of. If you are going to look at buying 'server' drives, like Apple Drive Modules, you may as well look at an Xserve itself, as those drives can cost you a few hundred bucks each. I've seen Xserve G4's on eBay before at reasonable prices.

I will say that migrating my server to dual G5's is quite noticeable, performance wise with the Server platform. :)
I don't think I really need a G5 processor.
PowerMac G4s with dual processors sell for pretty reasonable prices on eBay. But I haven't found any Xserve G4s for much less than $1500 on eBay yet.

Getting a SATA card for the PowerMac is a good idea. I did a little research, there is no huge difference in how many hours they run before dying between "normal" SATA HDDs and "24/7 usage" SATA HDDs. The main difference is speed (rotations per minute, cache).

Michael
 

mkuron

Registered
nixgeek said:
Unless the Xserve is dual, I would go with the PMG4 dually.
Either one, haven't decided yet, and probably won't be buying until a couple of months.

Another interesting idea would be: waiting for the Intel version of Mac OS X Server. If Apple is smart, they'd make it without the dongling to their hardware as this would attract many small/medium-sized businesses. Then you could get a cheap Dell server and run Mac OS X Server on it.

Michael
 

nixgeek

Mac of the SubGenius! :-)
mkuron said:
Either one, haven't decided yet, and probably won't be buying until a couple of months.

Another interesting idea would be: waiting for the Intel version of Mac OS X Server. If Apple is smart, they'd make it without the dongling to their hardware as this would attract many small/medium-sized businesses. Then you could get a cheap Dell server and run Mac OS X Server on it.

Michael
Which would totally defeat the purpose of the Mac, but a simple search will bring up TONS of threads on that topic.

Don't hold your breath on that prospect. Apple got burned by clones once before, and that was just with PPC. Imagine how badly it would be with x86. All that's changing here is the CPU, nothing more, nothing less.
 

nixgeek

Mac of the SubGenius! :-)
mkuron said:
It was just a thought.

Michael
No problem...it's just that this topic has been discussed to death here. Honestly, we won't know what's going to happen until Apple begins rolling out the first Intel Macs in June of next year. Once that happens, it's only a matter of time to see what Jobs does.
 

Go3iverson

Registered
mkuron said:
Either one, haven't decided yet, and probably won't be buying until a couple of months.

Another interesting idea would be: waiting for the Intel version of Mac OS X Server. If Apple is smart, they'd make it without the dongling to their hardware as this would attract many small/medium-sized businesses. Then you could get a cheap Dell server and run Mac OS X Server on it.

Michael

Sure, you could try and hack it, if you can wait over a year for your new server...

I think this point is moot. Apple isn't going to simply allow people to skip the hardware and just buy the software. It'll kill profits. Also, do you really want to run a non-supported server? Usually folks want their servers to be fully supported and reliable. Hacking OS X Server to run on non-supported hardware just seems like the exact opposite of what you'd want to do.
 

mkuron

Registered
Go3iverson said:
Sure, you could try and hack it, if you can wait over a year for your new server...

I think this point is moot. Apple isn't going to simply allow people to skip the hardware and just buy the software. It'll kill profits. Also, do you really want to run a non-supported server? Usually folks want their servers to be fully supported and reliable. Hacking OS X Server to run on non-supported hardware just seems like the exact opposite of what you'd want to do.
Hey, like I said, it was just an idea - nothing I was going to do!

Michael
 
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