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Colocate Your Mac mini

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the first-to-market dept.

Networking (Apple) 164

Pfhreak writes "Pure Static is already offering a service to colocate your Mac mini into a rack for those who want to set up a server on the cheap. Unfortunately, according to their FAQ, they're not planning on creating a Mini supercomputer. Which could be good news for those of you that are working towards being the first to set up such a cluster who have purchased a couple pallets of Minis, but haven't had time to finish setting up the cluster."

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Imagine a Beowulf... (1)

bdesham (533897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462494)

...oh.

Never mind.

mmmm (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11462506)

mmm, chocolate mac mini

Re:mmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11462947)

Don't worry, you're not the only one; I read it Chocolate Your Mac Mini as well.

Which is precisely why I'm posting this anonymously.

Re:mmmm (1)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 9 years ago | (#11468753)

Me too.

Then, when I realized that I was wrong, I thought Why not? You could hollow out one of those 20-pound Ghirardelli chocolate bars they sell at Trader Joe's for $20 with a dremel tool and put the guts of a Mac mini in there.

But that would be wrong.

Re:mmmm (2, Funny)

liangzai (837960) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463116)

Beware of the warning on some Apple products: Do not eat.

Mac Mini Cluster?? (3, Interesting)

X43B (577258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462509)

I've heard from several locations how desireable it would be to have a Mac Mini cluster. I hope the submitter was joking because does that make any sense? For one the maximum amount of RAM you can have is 1GB, the processor is not 64bit and gigabit ethernet is not available. I'm not saying a sub $500 Dell is the way to go. You can by an Xserve dual 2.3Ghz G5 machine for $2300. I bet one of those would outperform five Mac Minis.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11462599)

You can by an Xserve dual 2.3Ghz G5 machine for $2300. I bet one of those would outperform five Mac Minis.

Yeah, it may outperform, but it costs a lot more. Simple math, idoit.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (5, Funny)

X43B (577258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462617)

"Yeah, it may outperform, but it costs a lot more. Simple math, idoit."

1.) 1 X 2300 5*500
2.) when calling someone an "idoit", it would be best to spell it correctly

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (2)

cheezedawg (413482) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463084)

1.) 1 X 2300 5*500

Actually, as other people have pointed out, you can get them for $450 [devsdeals.com] .

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463681)

2.) when calling someone an "idoit", it would be best to spell it correctly

Heh, I thought his space bar malfunctioned and he was saying, "Simple math, I do it." (The unwritten part being "It appears that the fine gentleman I am replying to is incapable of mathematics.")

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 9 years ago | (#11467131)

when calling someone an "idoit", it would be best to spell it correctly

He did spell it correctly

A Doit is
1. A small Dutch coin, worth about half a farthing; also, a similar small coin once used in Scotland; hence, any small piece of money. --Shak.

2. A thing of small value; as, I care not a doit.

And iDoit is, naturally, The iApple iway iof ispelling idoit.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

bano (410) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462639)

If you buy the base mac mini its $499
So 5*$499=$2495
How is that cheaper than $2300.
Idiot

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11463056)

No, 5*$450 [devsdeals.com] = $2250 That is cheaper than $2300.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11468155)

No, 5*$450 = $2250 That is cheaper than $2300.

You're forgetting the network hardware (e.g., switch and cables) you'll need to cluster 'em. That probably eats up the last $50.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (2, Interesting)

EasyT (749945) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462848)

If you're comparing cost per unit of storage or bandwidth (and even perhaps processing power), the Xserve is going to win. But for small businesses even a single Xserve may be excessive. If you instead compare total cost out of pocket, a colocated Mac Mini suddenly looks like a superstar. The colocation service linked to is potentially a great way for a small business with limited product demand to cheaply and reliably serve the internet.

If you want to compare againt cheap PCs instead of Xserves, size will likely be your issue. From what I've seen, all PCs priced cheaper than a Mac Mini are physically larger. Any colocation service would likely charge more for the additional space consumed.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

X43B (577258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462913)

"But for small businesses even a single Xserve may be excessive."

Then it wouldn't exactly be a cluster, would it? It would be a single server. My entire post was in regards to a CLUSTER (see the title of my post, it doesn't say colocated server)

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

EasyT (749945) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463427)

Um, yes. I did see that the first line of your post referred to a cluster, but the second line of your post then referred to the submitter, who seemed to be (mainly) linking to a colocation site, and so I mentally started assuming you must be using the word cluster loosely, as "a number of similar things collected together or lying contiguous". I stand corrected.

Back on track now, let's look at your numbers. A 2.3GHz dual G5 Xserve for $2,300 you say? May I ask where you're getting that number? Looking at Apple's web site now, I see that same model going for $3,999. And even the low-end 2.0GHz single-processor G5 Xserve is $2,999. Both models support up to 8GB of memory.

I'm not arguing that Mac Minis' would make a better price/performance cluster, I'm just clarifying the numbers involved for anyone who wishes to embark upon such as argument.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

X43B (577258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463820)

"Looking at Apple's web site now, I see that same model going for $3,999"

I see a node going for $2,999, so if you are going to get technical, I was closer to being right. The fact that you chose the non node model proves you don't understand what I was talking about. Why would you have a DVD superdrive on a cluster node? That makes no sense at all. I referred to the submitter explcitly referencing a CLUSTER. I said I hoped the submitter was joking, yet my entire statement was about a cluster, no colocation. I made no mention of colocation or the submitters mention of colocation. I think it was obvious what the subject of the post was.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11466378)

I said I hoped the submitter was joking

Yes, I would not want to use Mac Mini's as clusters for what I do, simply because of the memory bandwidth restraints of the G4's they use.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (2, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462850)

First, you are looking at the wrong stats. If you plan to run your cluster as anything besides a side show, heat/power concerns are going to be as big of factor in your cost calculations as the hardware itself. I don't know if the mac mini gives off a lot of heat but it's something to take into consideration.
However, the fact that you probably cannot upgrade the ethernet capabilities in a mac mini to even fast ethernet is probably the bigger strike against the mac mini. In a lot of problems that employ parallel computing, the network latency can be as important as the processor speed(of course, there are plenty of exceptions and plent of "trivially parallel" problems). The Dell is a bit more upgradable than the mac mini. Though it's not nearly as cute.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

Alrescha (50745) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463573)

"However, the fact that you probably cannot upgrade the ethernet capabilities in a mac mini to even fast ethernet is probably the bigger strike against the mac mini."

What do you call 'fast'? The mini is 10/100.

A.
(everyone on my block calls 100Mb 'fast')

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (0)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463832)

First of all, there is something called fast ethernet [wikipedia.org] , and secondly, I was talking about latency, not bandwidth. For instance, fast ethernet has about 1/10th the latency(startup time) of normal ethernet. 100Mbps is the bandwidth of ethernet.
Pretty much one of the first issues you tackle when you study parallel computing is that for small messages, latency is the real killer. Latency time is orders of magnitude more than the time per byte, and unless you are sending huge messages(which happens a lot less than you would think on most applications), latency time dominates the time it takes to actually send the bytes.
If you are interested, hop on over to amazon.com, check out a few books, fascinating topic. I took a class in it, and I have just seen the tip of the iceberg.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

Alrescha (50745) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464082)

Ok, your wiki link says:

"Fast Ethernet is a collective term for a number of Ethernet standards that carry traffic at the nominal rate of 100 Mbit/s, against the original Ethernet speed of 10 Mbit/s"

Regardless of whether you were talking about latency or bandwidth, you were talking about Ethernet. So, what do you mean when you say:

"However, the fact that you probably cannot upgrade the ethernet capabilities in a mac mini to even fast ethernet is probably the bigger strike against the mac mini."

As as I said before, the mini is 10/100. According to the link you gave me that's 'fast'.

A.
(who is posting so much 'cause it was a snow day)

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464242)

Possibly your age is showing and you're not keeping your terminology consistent from one sentence to the next. This is confusing and makes it just about impossible to discuss anything. 100 Mbps = Fast Ethernet. The term Ethernet, used generically, can have speeds from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps. The Mac mini uses fast ethernet, i.e., 100 Mbps.

You're correct to bring latency into the discussion, and I'm hoping you could tell us if there are major latency differences between the various ethernet speeds (I suspect there are, no I'm sure there are) and what those differences are. Also, what impact does the ethernet controller (or NIC as the case may be), it's design and it's chipset have on latency.

As I'm sure you're well aware, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the powerful clusters we read so much about is the high speed interconnects. Based on this limited knowledge alone, I'd agree with you that a Mac Mini cluster probably faces an insurmountable obstacle to getting any serious parallel computing done. But you can't make your argument if you get bogged down with incorrect terminology, even contradicting the very link you provide.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11466299)

If you are interested, hop on over to amazon.com, check out a few books, fascinating topic. I took a class in it, and I have just seen the tip of the iceberg.

Yes, fascinating. You "took a class in it", while many here have been working in networking for many years and some even in parallel computing.

I couldn't care less what the wiki says or what you think it says. Ethernet comes in lots of grades, but mostly, ethernet is considered to have various bandwidths well below 100Mbit/s (most think it is 10Mbit/s, no more, no less. Most are wrong.), fast ethernet is 100Mbit/s. Yes, what do you know, the wiki is not that specific (ethernet on thickwire, tends to be 1Mbit/s and yes I have used it).

The Mac Mini, does fast ethernet.

Regarding latency in clusters, the system designer needs to take into consideration what will suffice given financial constraints. For some, 100Mbit ethernet will be fine, but then for others, specialized low latency multi-point interfaces are required (like Myrinet [myri.com] ).

It seems you really have just seen the tip of the iceberg. Get your scuba gear on and come back when you are more clued up and less of a smart arse.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

ArbitraryConstant (763964) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466731)

For cluster computing, it's gigabit minimum. Preferably something better. For example, the Big Mac cluster uses Infiniband, a low-latency network technology.

100 is good enough for desktop use, and good enough as a web server, but it's not good enough for cluster computing.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463400)

Depends on what you want to do. If you run RC5-72 [distributed.net] (for fun or for profit, or because you are TLA), a cluster of Mac Minis probably can't be beat, not even by a dual G5.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11466367)

Depends on what you want to do. If you run RC5-72 (for fun or for profit, or because you are TLA), a cluster of Mac Minis probably can't be beat, not even by a dual G5.

A Mac Mini is going to be lucky to have a tenth the memory bandwidth of a single G5. If your app is memory intensive, the G5 will be more economical. I think I would rather go dual Opteron though.

Take a look around the web for various memory benchmarks. The G5 is a MASSIVE jump on the G4. Then there are multi CPU Opteron boards which support NUMA, which can be closer to some much larger current day "big stuff" memory bandwidth. ~25 Gbytes/s.

Re:Mac Mini Cluster?? (2, Informative)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 9 years ago | (#11468293)

For some things you don't <i>need</I>memory bandwidth - including RC5-72. And the Opteron, sorry, sucks ass at it. <a href="http://n0cgi.distributed.net/speed/">See for yourself</A>.

Processor, MHz, #, Score (in keys/sec)
AMD Opteron 2420 1 9,547,969.00
AMD Opteron 1600 4 24,101,848.00
AMD Opteron 1792 2 9,891,998.00
AMD Opteron 2000 2 15,145,274.67
AMD Opteron 2200 2 15,099,050.00
PowerPC 744x/745x G4 1250 1 13,123,240.83
PowerPC 744x/745x G4 1333 1 13,918,160.25
PowerPC 744x/745x G4 1400 1 14,769,045.00
PowerPC 744x/745x G4 1416 1 15,045,897.00
PowerPC 970 G5 1600 1 8,360,235.00
PowerPC 970 G5 1800 1 13,147,178.00
PowerPC 970 G5 2000 1 15,057,412.00
PowerPC 970 G5 2000 2 28,715,624.55
PowerPC 970 G5 2400 2 31,000,000.00
PowerPC 970 G5 2500 2 33,962,933.71

I can't resist.... (3, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462609)

...giving a blurb for my former employer Hurricane Electric [he.net] , even though I despise the idiot who owns the place. They'll rent you cabinet space that is probably not much more expensive than a MacMini "condo". And they provide 24/7 human intervention for free, something MacMiniColo charges extra for.

Also, I'd wonder about any colo facility located in a former bank vault. It sounds cool, but it doesn't strike me as a very cost-effective place to put a data center.

run away! (2, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463047)

...giving a blurb for my former employer Hurricane Electric

I used to use these guys in the '90s. They screwed up the billing, claimed my CC# was giving an 'error code' (it wasn't, it was fine for everthing else) and instead of doing something like, say, calling me on the phone, they deleted all my files and canceled my account without notice.

Buyer beware.

Re:run away! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466262)

Can you recommend a decent, yet reasonably priced, alternative? I was recently looking at FreeBSD shell accounts (my current server runs FreeBSD, and I like it, but the network connection and power are somewhat unreliable to the building it's in) and they were at least double the price of the Mini in TFA.

Re:run away! (2, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 9 years ago | (#11468800)

I'm currently using 1&1 [1and1.com] and so far, so good.

If you get the root server account ($50/mo) you have your own machine so you could install FreeBSD or whatever you want on it. The rescue disc image is debian linux though, so you'd have to be conversant with that for dealing with a crashed filesystem (and sure that the resuce disc has the appropriate filesystem modules on it for your FreeBSD partitions).

Really though, if you're just interested in a shell account there's not a heck of a lot of difference between a FreeBSD and a Linux shell account (and we're happy about it!).

Re:run away! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11466337)

Be clear on that it was the Hurricane Guys that you used in the 90s

Re:run away! CLARIFCATION FROM macminicolo.net (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11469687)

I am president of Underwriters Technologies. We run macminicolo.net. Upon first reading the above thread, I was a bit concerned that we were being slandered here. Upon closer reading, however, I think that Bill Mcbgonigle was referring to the guys that started this thread.

But I want to be clear here. Our reputation is our most important commodity, not in an egotistical way, but in a basic moral sense. So I feel that this needs to be clarified.

We are a Texas Corporation that didn't even exist until January 1, 2000. Before that the founders wrote software for big insurance companies. We did no web hosting. Bill, would you mind clarifying who the butt of the comment was aimed at please?

Re:I can't resist.... (2, Interesting)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463253)

Also, I'd wonder about any colo facility located in a former bank vault. It sounds cool, but it doesn't strike me as a very cost-effective place to put a data center.

It would also be a complete bitch to run cables into it.

Some years ago I worked for an ISP that had taken over part of an old medical office building that had been renovated (somewhat). There was this one great room with an opening in one inner wall where there used to be a window which we used as the server room.

Everything was great until the day when the VP of Technology decided we should run some cable through the wall, and took a screwdriver and tried to hammer it through the wall. Clang -- he hit solid metal, and couldn't get through. As it turned out, the room used to be an X-ray chamber, and had 1/4" of lead from floor to ceiling in each and every wall.

On the bright side, it was nice to know our server room would have probably survived a distant nuclear blast ;).

Yaz.

Why? (3, Interesting)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462672)

The Mac OS is 90% of the experience of owning a Mac, and having the hardware is the other 10%. And what's the point of having a server that's also pushing a GUI?

Colocate a Linux server, which is almost made to be administered remotely. Macs are made to be seen, used, and not heard. Unless you're running Garageband or iTunes.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462824)

OS X is essentially FreeBSD with a pretty GUI on top.

Install OS X server, and you've got a top-notch backend with a beautiful / easy to use graphical frontend that you can either access via VNC or apple's remote server administration utility (not a remote desktop, but rather, a remote control panel). People use Windows 2003 because it provides a decent feature-set while being easy to use. Linux is obviously more featured and secure, but is a PITA to use. OS X Server takes the best of both worlds.

When the system's just sitting there, the GUI isn't using many resources -- RAM would be the only concern I see here, and chances are that most of the GUI stuff would be the first to be swapped to disk.

My biggest peeves here are the Mini's hardware specs. 256mb of ram just won't cut it for a server, and no sane person would run a server without RAID or some other form of redundant backup. Of course, you could set up two minis in a load-balancing configuration, and then you've got much more redundancy than you would get with one server running RAID.

Re:Why? (1)

hkb (777908) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464208)

OS X is essentially FreeBSD with a pretty GUI on top.


Actually it's Mach, with a BSD-like environment on top of it, including most of its userspace coming from FreeBSD.

It's really nothing like FreeBSD in the kernelspace, and is in fact, quite a bit slower than FreeBSD.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11464814)

god dammit, do we have to go through this every single time? you don't have to split hairs. it's fucking UNIX. uname, bash, uptime, it's all fucking here. if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's UNIX, OK?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11465427)

He didn't say it wasn't a *nix, just that it's not FreeBSD.

Mac OS X is a great desktop/workstation *nix, but Linux or *BSD are much better choices for a server OS.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11466020)

Except we are talking about high speed clusters here. Who cares if it has uname and uptime, it needs to has the numbers where it counts.

Re:Why? (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464777)

"no sane person would run a server without RAID or some other form of redundant backup."

Obviously a Mini is not server grade hardware. "Serious" people start with redundant discs, move on to redundant power supplies, and go from there. The mini is just a cheap way to go for some fun. As for backups, that's why God gave you a network:
-----
$ crontab -l
0 1 * * * tar zcvf ~/`date +%Y-%m-%d`.tgz ~/public_html/*
0 2 * * * scp ~/`date +%Y-%m-%d`.tgz me@some.other.server:~/backups/
0 3 * * * rm ~/`date +%Y-%m-%d`.tgz
-----
SSH keys are your friend!

---posted from a G4/1.25 GHz mini with 256 MB RAM that is also serving a few small sites via DSL

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11469444)

$ crontab -l

0 1 * * * tar zcvf ~/`date +%Y-%m-%d`.tgz ~/public_html/*
0 2 * * * scp ~/`date +%Y-%m-%d`.tgz me@some.other.server:~/backups/
0 3 * * * rm ~/`date +%Y-%m-%d`.tgz
I hope you're scheduling that so that all three fall on the same side of midnight.

Mac OS X is n FreeBSD (3, Informative)

@madeus (24818) | more than 9 years ago | (#11469963)

OS X is essentially FreeBSD with a pretty GUI on top.

Mac OS X is based on Rhapsody (with a new Window Manager theme and the core display technology being display PDF rather than being display PostScript), which is based on OPENSTEP, which is based on NeXTSTEP which is based on mach and UNIX from Berkeley.

There are BITS of FreeBSD in Mac OS X, but there also BITS of FreeBSD in multiple releases of Windows.

Like FreeBSD, it's a UNIX implimentation, but it's a very different style of UNIX implimentation from FreeBSD and it's not based on FreeBSD.

FWIW, you don't have to run the Quartz Window Manager either BTW, you can just choose to not start it. I'm tempted to say your better off with Debian on a lower end G4 PowerPC system like the mini though.

no GUI needed (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463091)

And what's the point of having a server that's also pushing a GUI?

The login screen doesn't eat many cycles sitting idle, but you could disable it in inittab if you wanted to.

You can do just about everything at the command line [64.233.161.104] but I usually leave a VNC server running because it's just faster to do some things that way.

Not that there's anything wrong with a linux server, which you can rent for next to nothing.

Re:Why? (1)

djdavetrouble (442175) | more than 9 years ago | (#11468290)

I know why. Mac people are rabidly pro mac to the point of wierdness. Case in point the studio manager at the company that I work for. He won't even let a non-mac RIP into the room for his plotters, so now he is doomed because this rip software he uses for the plotters _still_ only runs on os9 machines. This means right now he is stuck on old hardware, which means slower RIPs. We could have been using an EFI Fiery, that runs on custom wintel boxes, and it would run circles around what he is stuck with. The funny part is that he is operating this mac only enclave in a Novell 5.5 environment that has almost hostile file services for the mac, and no print services. He has a ghetto file server in the corner with some of those big LaCie's attached since the company servers are so sketchy (AFP over Appletalk via Prosoft). Viva beauracracy. Even the host for his ftp site is one of those mac rack places.
(written on a PowerMac G4)

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11470549)

Haha, yeah, MAC people are idiots.

Can you really trust a company... (5, Funny)

tdemark (512406) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462751)

...who has the following in their welcome Flash movie [purestatic.com] ?

The site is overloaded.
you loose paying customers.

Emphasis is mine. Lack of capitalization and bad spelling is theirs.

Re:Can you really trust a company... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11463518)

Please, they are much smarter than you think. The capitalization is *clearly* a tribute to the great poet e e cummings. Don't tell me you haven't read him! As for the word "loose", yes unfortunately this word is commonly a misspelling of "lose", but don't let that influence your interpretation of Pure Static's masterpiece of word play. Let's check the dictionary: loose - To untie or unbind; to free from any fastening; to remove the shackles or fastenings of; to set free; to relieve. The meaning conveyed by Pure Static is "unleash". Therefore, a translation of their bon mot into "simpleton's english" would be:

The site is overloaded.

The competitor's site is overloaded. Paying customers are turned away, their desire extinguished like a flame in a sheet of rain, washed down a mountain and dashed against the rocks.

you loose paying customers

But when customers visit your Pure Static-hosted site, they become paying customers. In fact, your site is so powerful, so masculine, it literally invites a torrent of payment from the unsuspecting site visitor, a powerful inverse of the unfortunate cretin who visited the competitor's so-called site. Essentially your site looses paying customers from the void.

Sometimes the low level of Slashdot discourse shocks me.. but not often.

*sniff*

Uhm, okay yeah it's a bunch of ex-graphic design wankers who got high on microwaved CD-ROMs and had a crazy idea for a hosting company. Cut them some slack, 'kay?

ee cummings (1)

faeryman (191366) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464561)

A rack of
Mac Minis.
toasted? or bandwidth served hot?
"there is some shit I will not eat"

You'd have to be pretty desperate (5, Insightful)

Cmdr-Absurd (780125) | more than 9 years ago | (#11462753)

The mini is NOT server-grade hardware.
from the FAQ
What about hardware failure? In case of hardware failure we will repair the units. However they are your units and you will be charged for the repairs.
How often will that happen if they put a bunch of these in a rack togeter? laptop drive running 24/7.... hmmm. In an encloded space jammed up against other minis.... hmmm. seems like a bad idea to me. Better to get a used xserve.

Re:You'd have to be pretty desperate (0, Flamebait)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#11465386)

Mac minis are the most overrated piece of garbage. I can understand iPod getting the attention, it's a good product overall.

The PC shuttle, being ultra tiny, came out years ago. It got zero attention compared to the Mac mini. People are just being biased, clapping over anything coming out of Apple.

The shuttle was equally as small and even more customizable. I don't think slashdot even had 1 article on that. Size doesn't really matter, the Apple logo matters.

Re:You'd have to be pretty desperate (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466572)

I just got an email from the company addressing these two concerns. Firstly, they are in a wire grid maximising air flow around them - which should alleviate the cooling issue. Secondly, they allow external disk drives to be connected for $5/month or $7.50/month if you require a power outlet. Since OS X can boot from a FireWire disk, there is nothing at all stopping you from buying a 320GB 7,200RPM disk and leaving the internal disk turned off.

Re:You'd have to be pretty desperate (1)

Cmdr-Absurd (780125) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466809)

I would not trust a firewire-attached disk for server usage and that solutions requires an extra finacial outlay for both the disks and the 'rent' in the space they take up. If it were me, I'd still go with a used xserve over a mini. But like I said "if you are desperate..."

Running OSX without GUI (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11462958)

Is it possible to run a Mac without the overhead of a gui using the included OS?

Re:Running OSX without GUI (1)

Cmdr-Absurd (780125) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463176)

quite possible. xserves ship without video card by default now. You can do all you setup via the command line and use ARD to do gui stuff if you want... or just stick with the cli. Apple publishes a very nice cli reference manual.

Re:Running OSX without GUI (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464478)

Apple publishes a very nice cli reference manual

You don't have a link, by any chance?

Re:Running OSX without GUI (4, Informative)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11465009)


Apple publishes a very nice cli reference manual

You don't have a link, by any chance?


Command-Line Administration [apple.com]

More docs [apple.com]

Re:Running OSX without GUI (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466038)

Thanks!!! You just made all the time I waste on slashdot actually useful!

Re:Running OSX without GUI (1)

Cmdr TECO (579177) | more than 9 years ago | (#11469279)

The missing piece of the puzzle is the commands systemsetup and networksetup. These are the only non-GUI way to administer certain things, and they are not included in plain OS X, only Server. However they are free downloads from Apple, though in a slightly roundabout way, as detailed on Mac OS X Hints [macosxhints.com] : they are inside ARDAgent.app in the Apple Remote Desktop 2.1 Client [apple.com] .

Re:Running OSX without GUI (2, Informative)

Puggs (562473) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463178)

yes

login as '>console' as the user

i may have the details slightly wrong, but ive been up for 30hrs, so please forgive me for not checking.......

Re:Running OSX without GUI (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463382)

What overhead? A few percent when you actually use the GUI.

and once the condos are full... (1)

rc3105-Riley (826296) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463365)

they dissapear w/o a trace, except for the $299 "buy it now" mac mini ebay listing (qty 5,000)

*wonder if co-lo xbox condo's are marketable. $150/unit + softmod + gentoo...

Proof of Concept? (1)

blew_fantom (809889) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463628)

i suppose making clusters and such would be a fun experiment, especially if the benchmark figures show that its competitive with other cluster farm arrangements relative to cost of ownership and operation and other financial figures. but it seems as tho apple's target market for the mac-mini IS NOT the server market. i think that much is clear. the hardware is nowhere near server grade. apple isn't THAT stupid. why would they try to cannibalize their x-serve or even the G5 market? that is not to say, the mac-mini isn't useful. if you had to recommend something to your parents something that was non-MS reliant (less work for you what with the maintenance and all), the OS is stable (BSD woo hoo!), and it looks darn cool so your parents are the envy of all their friends, AND it comes in that "cheap" (hidden costs notwithstanding)... the mac-mini is for you. tho, if wal-mart or costco started carrying the mac-minis, then you know fo' sho' Jobs lost his marbles.

you know.. (2, Insightful)

outZider (165286) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463738)

This is a blatant advertisement.

My take on Mini-as-server... (4, Insightful)

Bug-Y2K (126658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11463889)

Speaking as the guy who runs the oldest and largest Macintosh colocation facility [forest.net] on the Internet. (outing myself on /.)

I think, the form-factor is great. However, that said they would make a lousy server. It has a very slow, laptop HDD not at all optimized for use 7/24. They are not equipped with an adequate fan for cooling the unit if packed densely (like the photoshoped up "condo" on the Pure Static website.) If packed that tight, I bet the MBTF of the drive (and other components) drops to under two months or something insanely short like that.

Google "IBM Deskstar drive failure" to find out when non-server spec drives are used in a 7/24/365 environment

The final remaining issue with the mini-as-server idea is the external power brick. Wall-warts are the bane of any server installation. Very tough to work around. Potential fire hazard if not handled properly.

...

All that said, I expect we will see some clients who send us Minis to colo. We will probably treat them like we did iMacs & G4 Cubes - Put them on well ventilated shelves, in open racks. NOT pack them tight in a cabinet.

And with the Mini, just like the companies that popped up claiming to be "the place" to colo your [G4, Cube, Xserve, insert Apple product here] in the end, digital.forest will still have more of them colocated. Why? We have been doing it longer, have a better facility, and better support. We have knowledgeable systems administrators ON SITE 7/24, who understand MacOS, MacOS X, as well as other UNIX flavors and Win32. We are in our 11th year, opening our third facility. We are a known quantity, with a reputation for quality. Not just some guy who registered a domain name on January 12th.

However... all this interest in using them as servers should be a big honkin' clue to Apple!
They need to make "Xserve Lite" 1U - 18" X 18" X 1.75"
one or two drives
one 64-bit pci slot (for an FC card)
1 usb port front and one in back
ditto firewire
built-in video
(low-end admins need video... lame I know, but check the lists and forums about how many people freak when their G5 Xserve arrives sans video card)
Ideal would be video front and back, ala the Dell servers
No need for the goofy split case of the Xserve (I have seen two fall apart in a rack)
No need for those gawd-awful "whack a paddle/kill the server" drive sleds. (I want to find the engineer in Cupertino who designed this and beat them senseless - with one of these lame drive sleds! Sure, they look nice, but they are functionally worthless. Except perhaps as a blunt object to beat people with.)
$1000 price point.
"workgroup server" or "lightweight web server"
No need even for OS X Server, just MacOS
An option to buy Server if you need filesharing for more than X users.
If there really is a market for people to shoehorn an low-end DESKTOP machine into a server role... then Apple should address it. Especially something as ill-suited to server work as the Mac Mini.

--chuck goolsbee
vp tech ops
digital.forest
seattle, wa

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464451)

Hey, I was going to contact you guys about colocating my iPod Shuffle, but I was afraid you might eat it.

Thanks for the info and insights, especially re: suitability. This brings to mind the other "mini project" of creating a "media server" that seems to be motivated because the mini looks like it could be a media appliance. I'm sure people will come up with some cool uses, but in some cases they're going to end up spending more money for less solution.

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (1)

Bug-Y2K (126658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464586)

Send us your Shuffle! I hear they are quite tasty!

--chuck

______________________________
all Ihr Mischen gehören zu uns

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (1, Interesting)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464937)


You forgot the 10/100 NIC. For God's sake, people: the mini is not meant as a server, and if you use it as one I fear that you'll get bummed on the Mac experience in general, decrying the "crap" hardware.

At most, you might use a mac Mini as a DHCP/NAT/3 person file-server for collaboration or for emergency network services. It might make a fun thing to hit when you need to do file recovery, for instance, like a portable hard drive/NAS device. But if you think you're going to run Quick Time Streaming Server off of it, buy a few minis--you'll need them, one after the other.

As for cheap Server grade hardware: interesting idea, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Folks would be too inclined to buy less than what they need, and then get pissed of when it breaks under load. Maybe a single 1.8Ghz G5 CPU, less max RAM, built in video, etc? I dunno; I'm not feeling the market. You're pretty close with the cluster Xserve [apple.com] , except it doesn't have video or optical drive; maybe a cluster with a single CPU option? And other stuff removed too?

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (2, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11465281)

You forgot the 10/100 NIC

What about it? Most colocation plans are 100 mbit/second or under (usually well under).

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (2, Interesting)

ArbitraryConstant (763964) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466905)

Apple doesn't tend to use very good network chipsets in their low end desktop machines. They eat a lot of CPU time and don't go very fast. Doesn't matter in a desktop machine, but it hurts in a server, even at slow colo speeds.

Probably doesn't hurt as much as the laptop drive anyway. Besides, people probably don't want these as high-load servers. The probably just want something off-site.

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (1)

Bug-Y2K (126658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11468415)

You do backup your serverson occasion, don't you??

While we rarely see a colo push more than 10mbits, backups over the network routinely hit >80Mbits per second. Of course, it is better if your server has two NICs, one for public network access, the other for private backup traffic. The Mini can only have one.

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11469848)

Backups are done over the built-in AirPort. Duh.

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (2, Interesting)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11465239)

I think, the form-factor is great. However, that said they would make a lousy server. It has a very slow, laptop HDD not at all optimized for use 7/24

What about servers with light load? The thing that is very interesting about this Mac Mini colocation deal is that the monthly cost is comparable to shared hosting plans. Sure, you wouldn't want to stick 300 virtual hosts on a Mac Mini...but how about taking one site from a virtual host and putting it on a dedicated Mini? That looks quite attractive for those of us who would like more control than we get on shared hosting, but don't have high load sites.

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (1)

Bug-Y2K (126658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11468375)

Load is not the issue. The reliability & design of the hard disk drive is. Laptop drives are designed to be power frugal, spinning down when not in use. A lightly loaded server would be spinning up every time a web request comes in. It would be slower than a heavily loaded Xserve. If it was heavily loaded, or packed tight in a 'condo" then the drive could just die after some relatively short time frame.

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11470362)

I am considering getting one of these to run a mail, Jabber and low volume web server on. With 512MB of RAM, it would have more than enough memory space to cache all of the data files in RAM, and would not need to touch the hard disk. After installing NetBSD's pkgsrc this would make an excellent BSD UNIX system for my kind of usage.

Re:My take on Mini-as-server... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11466478)

SPAMMER.

However, that said they would make a lousy server. It has a very slow, laptop HDD not at all optimized for use 7/24.

Actually, the drive in the Mac Mini is fast for a 2.5" drive and is designed for longevity, having a 5 year warantee. I try to keep my server stuff within RAM and even the slow G4 memory will saturate 100Mbit/s. When the file is not in RAM, of well, I will have to put up with the little ~40MB/s drive.

They are not equipped with an adequate fan for cooling the unit if packed densely (like the photoshoped up "condo" on the Pure Static website.) If packed that tight, I bet the MBTF of the drive (and other components) drops to under two months or something insanely short like that.

If these can handle a 33% - 66% duty cycle in peoples homes, they should be okay for 100% duty cycle in a properly equiped filtered, cooled and humidity regulated computer room.

Google "IBM Deskstar drive failure" to find out when non-server spec drives are used in a 7/24/365 environment


The IBM Deskstar problems were NOT due to 24/7 operation. The problems were due to the fact that the drives were broken when they left the factory. Regardless of the duty cycle you attempt to get out of a particular IBM Deskstar which is afflicted with the famous problem, it will die well before any other typical drive which is asked the same duty cycle.

It's like pointing at a Lada and saying, "See!! Cars are badly made! You should buy a truck for courier work!". When the Lada was possibly the worst car you could have chosen.

not for highly loaded servers (1)

ArbitraryConstant (763964) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466863)

I think people want to use them because sometimes you just need something online all the time, even if the hardware can't support a high load. It's still a bad position to be in because the laptop drives don't need high load to kill them, but as you say there aren't a lot of options.

Any comment on how unreliable macslash is? ;)

Re:not for highly loaded servers (1)

Bug-Y2K (126658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11468510)

> Any comment on how unreliable macslash is? ;)

Sure. From what I gather, slashcode runs horribly on OS X Server. They also have issues with the mySQL db requiring a kick in the head after a backup.

Their server is always "up", but they have a real hard time keeping the processes running.

I've suggested to them many times to try something other than slashcode. There are many similar packages that run just fine on OS X. Why be the only site on the planet that is running this code on this OS??

--chuck

mac-mgrs.org (1)

leejor (41648) | more than 9 years ago | (#11470462)

For those of you who don't recognize Chuck Goolsbee's name, he is well know to those of us who administer Macintosh systems. And has long been a leader of the Mac Managers [mac-mgrs.org] mailing list. One of the best resources for professional Mac admins.

Lee Joramo

Macminicolo.com (2, Informative)

Special_K_21 (821393) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464070)

Macminicolo.com [macminicolo.com] has been up for some time, since launch day as far as I can tell.

What a WASTE of DVD-ROM drives! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11464312)

This is a terrible waste of DVD-ROM drives.

Re:What a WASTE of DVD-ROM drives! (1)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464842)

I hadn't thought about the optical drive. It's a pretty big waste of a lot of components. The mini wasn't designed to be a headless server. Does a headless server really need sound in/out? How about the modem?

Re:What a WASTE of DVD-ROM drives! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11468243)

at $500 who cares if they lay dormant

Heat dissipation (4, Informative)

babbage (61057) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464400)

I was looking at this site the other day. My first impression was that it was a pretty good idea -- you have this cheap little computer that would be more than adequate for running a website &/or mail server, and it's small enough that you could get dozens of them of a single rack.

Then it dawned on me that the Mac Mini doesn't have a fan, and depends entirely on being able to vent heat around the bottom edges and back panel. Apple's site has a document warning users: [apple.com]

Always place your Mac mini on a hard, flat surface to provide maximum airflow to the computer's vents around the rubber base. Don't put anything on top of your Mac mini or stack Mac minis on top of each other either.

Sounds like a dense rack full of the things would be liable to overheat & burn out.

Are these people thinking about cooling issues? Their FAQ page [purestatic.com] made no mention of it last week, and it looks like it still doesn't now. Would anyone trust a rack full of these things not to cook the circuitry?

Re:Heat dissipation (1)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464820)

The mini does have a fan but you're right, it relies on the air ducts along the bottom to function.

It has a fan (1)

ProfessionalCookie (673314) | more than 9 years ago | (#11465409)

It actually has a fan [macworld.com] . One fan. One lonely fan. (See figure K).

Granted the fan doesn't run all the time...or does it? In any case the Mac Mini I played with was very very quiet.

Re:Heat dissipation (1)

dmjossel (122306) | more than 9 years ago | (#11465590)

The Mac Mini does have a fan.

Of course, that doesn't mean that overheating isn't an issue; I'm sure the "mini condo" image on the aforementioned site is not a good idea.

Re:Heat dissipation (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466607)

From an email I just received from the company in question on the subject of cooling:
Yes, we have take the cooling issue into account. The picture there is just that, a picture. We are raking minis are to be set on racks made of wire grates. (Like the inside of you freezer.) THis is done to maximize air flow. Also keep in mid that the data center was designed to handle tightly packed pentiums, which run much hotter than g4's. Finally you don't care how loud our cooling fans are.

Poor Cluster (3, Informative)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 9 years ago | (#11464572)

Real clusters use high speed networking like InfiniBand or Myrinet to reduce latency to tolerable levels. Anything else is just a bunch of computers hooked together for trivially parallelizable problems. Seeing as how there aren't expansion slots in the Mac Mini, I really don't see the point.

Not Necessarily (1)

OS24Ever (245667) | more than 9 years ago | (#11469084)

You do not always need an infiniband or myrinet link, it depends on the workload. If there isn't a lot of inter-node communication going on infiniband or myrinet is a big chunk of change for little/no benefit.

For example, workloads like Seti @ Home, Oil Sonar Data Analysis, protein folding, etc need like 1K of bandwidth total to move tiny packets of 'equation and results' and that's about it.

however quantum computing modeling, or airflow analysis, things like that where data is intermingled and not a 'brute force' cluster like the previous set you need a high speed low-latency interconnect for MPI and then yeah you'd want it.

Isn't that illegal in Minnesota? (4, Funny)

Skippy_kangaroo (850507) | more than 9 years ago | (#11465000)

When I read the headline it looked like "Colectomy your Mac Mini"

That sound's painful and I'm sure it would be against the reverse engineering clauses in your license agreement.

Tish, boom - I'll be here all week.

Well... (3, Interesting)

bjjohnson (572841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11465698)

I guess my question is... Is this a case of someone taking advantage of someone else's ignorance? Or could this actually be a legit service. One USEFUL idea is that a person could want a remote location for remote access from around the world to a Mac fromt end via remote desktop services. Someone there to reboot the thing if it crashes while you are in Singapore. I guess there are some good uses for this. Just a thought... What do YOU think?

Interesting but economic? (4, Interesting)

jago25_98 (566531) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466348)

The mini mac has some nice features , especially media related. But these would surely be wasted - like the graphics card.

Surely there's a better option than this?; even powerPC based and similar price range? I'm suprised a slashdotter hasn't said this yet.

Re:Interesting but economic? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466663)

I was looking at getting a root shell account on FreeBSD box recently (running in a Jail, so it looks like you have a machine to yourself, but you can fit more than one on a physical machine). Everywhere I looked at charged more for this and about 1GB of disk space than these people are charging for a dedicated box. My needs in terms of processing power and bandwidth are relatively low, but I would like to have complete control over what is running on my system. If anyone can point me to a better deal than this I would be grateful.

Re:Interesting but economic? (2, Insightful)

ArbitraryConstant (763964) | more than 9 years ago | (#11466970)

The thing with a jail is that it'll be running on a very high end machine (unfortunately FreeBSD doesn't have a decent PowerPC port yet, otherwise an Xserve would be ideal for this) (also unfortunately, MacOS doesn't seem to have the jail facility, so you can't do the jails with MacOS would would also be ideal), and it's probably set up to failover onto another machine if it goes down. You're paying for the reliability.

If your Mac mini goes down, you could be SOL for weeks.

The value you place on reliability is of course completely up to you.

Re:Interesting but economic? (1)

jago25_98 (566531) | more than 9 years ago | (#11467236)

Send me a mail. A syndicate type setup seems like a possible answer; total root in escrow perhaps with jails or virtual machines of some sort for each user.

That way you are the middle man.

I would find root on some server somewhere very useful but it's too expensive for me personally.

Heat problems? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11467349)

Have the Mac Mini's been engineered for stacking together in close configurations like this? I'd hate to be the guy owning the Mini in the middle. Would I have ANY airflow?

Xserve Blade? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11469288)

I think the mini is a stepping stone to Apple developing a blade server rig. Think about it-- a few minor changes like upping the Ethernet to gigabit, swapping the laptop drive for a full sized one that can handle server duty, and a different backplane, and then they've just got to design the rack to hold them.
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