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    FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?

    DavidHollander

      FileMaker officially recommends "server-class" equipment for a FileMaker Server disk subsystem:

      "Whether you decide on a traditional hard drive based disk sub-system or a SSD based sub-system, it is important to consider “server-class” equipment versus “consumer-class” equipment. “Server-class” equipment tends to be more reliable and designed for the demands that a server machine could put on it."    http://help.filemaker.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/9645

       

      I'm looking at whether to "build-to-order" (BTO) a Late 2014 Mac mini as an FMS 15 host. There are only five or six FileMaker Pro 14/15 clients at a time, no WebDirect or Go connections, and only 11 hosted files (about 500 MB total). So this is a small workgroup, not an enterprise.

       

      The hard disk in our last 2012 Mac mini FMS host (5400 rpm) died, so I thought I'd look at BTO disk alternatives this time. A 2.8GHz mini with 8GB memory can have a BTO 256GB PCIe-based Flash Storage in place of the standard Fusion Drive, for the same $999.

       

      My question is:

      Is Apple's PCIe-based Flash Storage in a Mac mini a good choice for an FMS host?

      Is it "server-class-enough" for my needs?

       

      I asked Apple directly whether they considered their PCIe-based Flash Storage to be "server-class" and they said no, and that they don't offer any "server-class" options for the mini.

       

      The speed of PCIe-based flash would seem advantageous over a traditional hard drive, but do we know enough yet about flash/SSD in general to say that it's "safe" for an FMS host machine? (Of course I'll have an external drive as well, for backups.)

       

      Should I instead just buy another low-end Mac mini with the 5400 rpm drive and replace it more quickly, or is it time I give up on using a Mac mini again?

       

      Thanks for your opinions on this.

        • 1. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
          wimdecorte

          The size of the workgroup does not really matter; it is the business criticality of the solution.

           

          Whether the Mac Mini works for your or not depends on if those users would tax the processors.  If they do then the flash drive is not going to be much help.

           

          Do you currently have the FMS stats logs enabled?  If so analyze those numbers first.

          • 2. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
            bigtom

            Wim is correct. You need to evaluate the value of your data. The Mac mini is certainly not what is considered server class hardware, but they work well.

             

            if you have regular backups of your data on an external drive and offsite things are good. I am a fan of small 4 SSD Thunderbolt software RAID 10 systems for situations where the RAID management does not severely impact the database performance. If you're worried about a disk failure you can always lose one disc and replace it keeping the operational. You can also quickly move the data to another machine faster than if the data in on a single disk that is also the server boot disk and it goes bad.

             

            Add a UPS and you are fairly prepared for a disaster.

            • 3. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
              GarySprung

              Your question hits a sore spot about Apple for me. Must one buy a Mac Pro, at minimum $3000, to get server-class hardware with a Mac OS?

               

              Does an iMac qualify as server class? I would guess the answer is "no". Doesn't it use the same type of flash drive and bus as a newer Mac mini? And it will always consume electricity because of the built-in monitor. (Even if one turns the brightness all the way down?)

               

              Apple does not offer a mid-level server computer.

               

              By the way, a fusion-drive configuration creates two points of failure: the SSD and the spinning drive. So fusion less optimal for production server?

              • 4. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                mattel

                You can pick up an off lease (3 year old or so) server that is dell or HP, replace the hard drives with SSD and run FMS on it and windows server.

                 

                Sure you have to buy windows server...

                But to put it in perspective for about $500 you can normally find a machine 2x 6 core processors, and 48 or 96GB of ram. 

                 

                Grab 4 SSD and put them in Raid 10.  Hook up a few external drives for backup.  Make sure of course you have the UPS hooked up.

                 

                For SSD in servers, i like the samsung sm863 and pm863.  (i'm sure they will release new ones eventually).  Consumer grade, the samsung 850 EVO work great, and the 850 PRO basically has double the write life span of the 850 EVO. 

                 

                Without knowing what PCI-e SSD apple uses, it's likely a consumer grade item.  The server grade (enterprise) grade drives generally allow for far more TBW (Terabytes Written).

                 

                All that being said - the server would be able to handle far more than you.  Have you considered hosting it at a filemaker specialized host?  or amazon EC2. 

                • 5. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                  ggt667

                  I use external JBOD runnign o3x RAIDZ2 with MacMini 2012 i7 w/16GB RAM works a dream 12 users.

                  • 6. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                    RickWhitelaw

                    Even the MacPro is not considered server grade. Mac simply hasn't made server grade hardware for years.

                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • 7. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                      ggt667

                      In which is true, I do recommend taking a look at SuperMicro if you are serious about servers.

                       

                      Mac hardware does not have any room for harddrives inside, and is too compact to be a server, by that I mean there are on real expansion ports, only cable sockets, in which is OK for a workstation and a laptop but for a server at least I do expect room for 8 - 24 drives and an exchangable HBA.

                       

                      Where DELL, HP, and IBM appears as( in random order ) Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. SuperMicro is in a class of its own when it comes to server hardware.

                      • 8. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                        StephenWonfor

                        David

                         

                        What the flash drive does offer is super fast backups.  If you do not back up a lot, and your users never notice when one is going on then there is no real advantage.  But if you have WAN users this can start to matter. 

                        I have one client who bought 2 SSD equipped Mac Mini's.  Set one up with FMS14 etc with schedules, groups etc then cloned that whole machine onto the other Mini.  Backups to an external SSD at frequent intervals make a hardware catastrophe fairly straightforward to recover from. 15 users.

                         

                        Stephen

                        • 9. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                          wimdecorte

                          StephenWonfor wrote:

                           

                           

                          I have one client who bought 2 SSD equipped Mac Mini's. Set one up with FMS14 etc with schedules, groups etc then cloned that whole machine onto the other Mini. Backups to an external SSD at frequent intervals make a hardware catastrophe fairly straightforward to recover from. 15 users.

                           

                          Stephen

                           

                          Seems to me that this would be in ideal candidate for the FMS Primary/Standby setup.  That would reduce the potential for lost data even further

                          • 10. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                            StephenWonfor

                            Wim

                             

                            Excellent point.   I wish I could remember all this stuff sometimes - when I don’t use certain toolsets I forget that they exist.

                             

                            Stephen

                             

                            ---

                             

                            "We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English." --- Winston Churchill

                            • 11. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                              ggt667

                              You will not get any real speed increase / lack of delay until you stripe or RAIDZ 8 or more SSDs in my opinion.

                              • 12. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                                siplus

                                I would start with the value given to the data and your max budget for "the server", quoted because it includes everything- UPS, backup, the server itself etc.

                                • 13. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                                  dtcgnet

                                  In today's world, I would absolutely consider a VM in the cloud. Amazon will give you a free server for the first year. On paper, the specs look low powered, but performance is actually pretty good. I am frequently logged in on my laptop, iPad, and 4 browser windows, testing and tweaking. It is incredibly reliable, I have a script which backs up my backups to a different location, and I access the VM using free Microsoft Remote Desktop software for my Mac. You can also stop and restart the server in different configurations, and you won't have to reload any of the software. Done right, you can stop, change specification, start, and you're VM is now a different-machine. Google has options, Microsoft has options, GoDaddy has options.

                                   

                                  Taxwise, you don't get to depreciate the asset, but it is all a business expense. You can get a 3-year deal after your first year for $10 per month if that's what you want to do.

                                   

                                  And...after you get your first system set up, you can use "Start more Instances Like This" to spin up a backup server for the Standby feature in FileMaker Server.

                                   

                                  I've been incredibly satisfied.

                                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                  • 14. Re: FMS: "server-class" hardware necessary for a small workgroup?
                                    LSNOVER

                                    Using a Mac Mini with a good external drive array, like a Prometheus system or Drobo, can give a decent box with decent performance and some drive redundancy.   I would keep an identically configured Mini on standby, because you would have no redundancy on your OS drive or power supply with the mini.

                                     

                                    As others have said you can pick up a used off lease Windows server  very reasonably.  I use Dell R710s and R620 servers.  Company I work with is EzTrade Live.  The "real" servers have hot swap drives, dual hot swap power supplies, room for LOTS OF RAM, and are built like tanks.  They also have sub-systems that allow you to remotely shut down and start up the servers.  Also, one area that Apple Mac OS X absolutely STINKs at is Remote Access. Windows has remote access built in, and it works very well.  The Microsoft Remote Desktop Client on the Mac is VERY good and getting better constantly. 

                                     

                                    I have been experimenting with SSDs in my servers, using RAID 10 and basic mirroring.  I am not seeing a big increase in performance vs. the high speed 15K RPM drives that typically come with the servers, and these SSDs can get very pricey.  The upside is lower power draw, good warranties, and hopefully higher reliability.  I have not had them around long enough to attest to the reliability part.

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