One thing to mention in a review of Lion Server is the state of Apple’s server hardware. As you may or may not remember, Apple discontinued its Xserve line of rack-mounted server hardware back in January, and slightly modified two of their desktop models to fill the void - Lion Server can be installed on any Lion-capable Mac, but these are the systems that are actually shipped with it installed.

The first, the Mac Mini Server, adds a quad-core processor and second internal hard drive to the standard Mini configuration - you can certainly use this drive as additional storage space, but in a server it is best used to provide data redundancy in a RAID array with the other drive. A price of $999 (the same price, remember, as the Leopard Server software by itself back in the day) makes it a hard proposition to turn down for small-to-medium businesses or academic institutions, and a small group of them can provide enough power and redundancy to comfortably serve most services to many devices (rack-mountable shelves that will house up to four Minis are cheap and readily available).

The Mini Server became easier to recommend after its recent refresh, where it gained the Sandy Bridge architecture and its quad-core processor in one fell swoop. Bump it up to 8GB of RAM (aftermarket, if you’re smart - friends don’t let friends pay $200 for a $60 memory kit) and you’ve got yourself a decent little server box.

The second is the Mac Pro Server, which can pack enough processing power and memory to host OS X Server and a couple of virtual OS X Servers if you wanted. It’s a little harder to recommend, since the performance gap between the base Mac Pro Server configuration and Mac Mini Server configuration is smaller than it once was, and since the Mac Pro would take up so much space in a rack. The Mac Pro is still waiting on its 2011 refresh, which should bring both newer processors and (if the rumors are to be believed) a new, smaller case (since the current case design has remained largely the same since the Power Mac G5 came out eight years ago). This, perhaps combined with a price drop, could make the Mac Pro Server a better choice than one or two Minis.

The main drawback of Apple’s current server hardware is lack of monitoring tools - the Server Monitor tool that continues to come with the Server Admin Tools download requires Lights Out Management (LOM) support in the hardware, and the XServes were the only Apple computers that did this. If you want to know things about your server’s temperature, RAID status, and the rest, you’ll have to rely on third-party tools.
Using OS X Server with Windows clients Final Thoughts
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  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - link

    Your Twitter was right, this really is endless
  • CharonPDX - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - link

    It was that pesky loop that started on page 23 that circled you back to page 8. By the time you'd read page 23, you'd forgotten what was on page 8, so you didn't notice you were in a loop until you were at what you thought was page 157...
  • B3an - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - link

    Very in depth article... but i feel you've wasted time on this. No one in there right mind would use OSX as a server. Apart from Apple fanboys that choose an inferior product over better alternatives because it has an Apple logo, but i emphasize the words "right mind".
  • FATCamaro - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - link

    For enterprise work, or a Windows-only network this is certainly true. For SMB, or even 500 mac/mixed users I think it could work if you can provide some glue to handle fail-over.
    Windows server is better for Office for sure as is Linux for web & applications.
  • Spivonious - Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - link

    I can run a web server on the client version of Windows. It's just not installed by default.
  • mino - Saturday, August 6, 2011 - link

    Hint: for how many users/connections ....

    If it was THAT simple there would be no Web Edition, mind you.
  • AlBanting - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Same thing for client version of Mac OS X. I've done this for years.
  • KPOM - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - link

    True, for an enterprise user. However, a small business or tech-savvy home user trying to manage multiple Windows PCs, Macs, and iOS devices might well be tempted by the $50 price tag.

    If should be obvious by the price drop and the discontinuation of the XServe that Apple no longer intends to compete with Windows Server or Linux in the enterprise market. They are a consumer-oriented company, and released a server OS intended for a consumer market.
  • zorxd - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - link

    Tech-savvy home user will run a free linux distro for a server. Plus it will work on any hardware, not only on a Mac. Many use older PCs as servers.
    Also the Mac Pro is too expensive and the Mac Mini can't even have 3.5" drives which mean that it is a bad solution for a file server.
  • richardr - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - link

    Actually, I have a real use case, though it may be a bit specialised for your tastes... non-computing departments of universities are full of people with underused desktops running Word, but also have other people doing analyses that take ages to run on their machines. Making them all Macs (you'll never persuade them to use linux) and wiring them up with xgrid and OSX Server is a pretty pain-free way of running my analyses on their machines without too much disruption to their lives...

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