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Author Topic: The new MacMini Server: Experiences  (Read 1439 times)
perkiset
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« on: October 30, 2009, 04:08:17 PM »

I put one of the new MacMini servers (http://www.apple.com/macmini/server/) this week. It will be a speciality server for one of my medical clients, providing web-based transcription services, web applications, client interaction and remote login for a variety of other services. As advertised, the MacMini server came with OS-X server, 2 500GB drives, no CD ROM drive, keyboard, mouse or anything else. It's truly just a little server package. Much of this post is about OS-X Server, not just the machine, since this is my first experience with it. So this is sort of a combined article.

It's heavy. Well, heavier than a normal MacMini. But it's got a nice feel, very solid. I plugged it in and it went right into the (relatively normal) OS-X setup mode. There are considerably more questions, since it wanted to know if what services I want on by default (web, MySQL etc etc) as well as other server-oriented features. It's got quite a bit installed by default - I was immediately impressed. The box is setup for completely headless operation and remote login by default. I had to opt into SSH and other connection mechanisms at startup. The dock is a little different:


The most important item is Server Admin. This is a very nice utility that allows me to modify (pretty much) all the params of running services, much akin to any other server system would. It does a strong job. I was able to bring the server up, setup a new secure website on a custom port within moments. The only hitch was that php was not turned on by default - a curious choice. A quick checkmark in the modules section of the Apache handler and I'm good to go. Handy here: many of the services allow for dynamic turn up, so I did not have to restart Apache for PHP to take effect. Something that is available, but I've not yet seen is how to access it is direct mod of the httpd.conf - don't know if I have to do that by hand or what. As many of you know, my sites all rewrite into a single main.php rather than calling files all over the drive, so I'll be interested to see if Apple has made rewriting any easier (or harder!) for me. I'm sure theres a virtual host editor somewhere, but I haven't found it yet.

The machine feels a lot faster than I'd have expected. Fire up, shut down, remote connection - everything seems really, really optimized. I'd imagine that there are a lot of user-services that are not turned on, because turn on particularly is fast.

The Apache instance is a lush and strong 2.2, with virtually anything you could want compiled in, but not necessarily turned on. PHP is 5.3 and I was quite impressed with the breadth of modules built into it. Many things that I've had to struggle bringing up manually on other servers (like GD with a bunch of formats, OpenSSL and such) which have other dependencies - not magic at all, but definitely nice. After a pretty thorough look through, I can't see anything that I'd want installed in either PHP or Apache that is not already available on the machine. Now, I have yet to pull the trigger on MySQL, but I'd expect that it's pretty well built as well.

Other items that the server supports but I am not using yet (although some I will be in the near future) include an iChat server, contact server, CalDAV, AFS, DNS, DHCP, mail, open directory, SMB, FTP ... this plus many more services are available to be turned on or off with a single switch. Nicely done. Of course all the user management stuff is there as well, workgroups, as well as not as often used services like a podcast manager.

All in all, the experience I would expect from Apple. Clean, exactly what a server should have on it combined with the standard Apple attention to UI detail.

I'll tell more as I build my first service - a multi-user web app that allows for doctors to record charts, an outside service transcribe them, inhouse personal approve and then another group of people apply the transcriptions to patient records. It'll require a a secure MAMP stack and will be used hard by a lot of people. I look forward to letting you know how the little box holds up.
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vsloathe
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2009, 12:27:21 PM »

I'm allowed to make fun of your server for having a GUI.

That is all.
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perkiset
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2009, 12:38:29 PM »

ROFLMAO

Well, if I REQUIRED it then I'd be suitably embarrassed. But since it's a total afterthought to me, I can just giggle.

That aside - I was quite concerned that it might have an impact on performance, much like the Windows GUI clearly does. But in this case, the little machine is just screaming and headless, I expect that the actual time expended on the GUI is essentially nil, much like X when you're looking at another session on the same box. I don't see much impact at all, which is a pleasant surprise.
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