13 Replies Latest reply on Nov 27, 2013 10:11 AM by CarstenLevin

    Looking for server hardware purchase advice

    mdenyse

      I've got a client who wants a dedicated FM server in-house. Their budget is $1,500 for the hardware (they already own an FM Server license). I've read the white papers (no need to link them, thank you), but I'd like some real world examples of what people purchased and are using for their hardware. They typically run about 10 users at a time (mostly Pro, some Go) and extremely limited CWP (it's only to serve up a few web viewers within the solution), and it's one database file. The client is more inclined towards Windows but would consider MacOS hardware if it made sense.

       

      So, if you were heading off to the hardware store today, what would you buy?

       

        • 1. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
          CarstenLevin

          We are supporting +30 server installations in everything from larger corporations and down to 3-10 employees operations.

          We are also having customer solutions hosted at a Danish Hosting company who are handling FileMaker really good www.avalonia.net

           

          Before my recomandation for your specific purpose, some general remarks:

          • Some of our solutions are running with Windows 2008 and high end many processors + raid etc. It is easier with FileMaker 12 (64 bit issue).
          • Some solutions running on X serve with fast disks or raid.
          • Some running on Mac Pro.
          • One running in a closet on a Mac Book Pro (build in UPS:-)

           

          Lately we have set up some customers with Mac mini server. Thunderbolt raids. SSD disk to run the databases from.

          The results are very very positive. I would probably consider stronger hardware for 500 simultanous users

           

          Some questions:

          • Which version of FileMaker, Assuming that it is FMS12.
          • How about files - dokuments - more than 100 GB's - assuming not.
          • The need for redundance - will the system be mission critical for your client or can they live with 2 hours down time in the case of a serious hardware/software error. Not likely to happen, but what if?

           

          But my first response before knowing the answers to the questions above wil be:

          The number of users are very limited, the load is low.

          Unless the customer are having principal arguments about Mac OS X, and unless they are unable to listen to good advice, I would suggest Mac OS X Server 10.8.

          Hardware: Mac Mini Server.

          16 GB RAM, 2,6 GHz processor, SSD storage.

          Price for the configuration I suggest: 1599 USD.

          You could exchange the 250 GB SSD for 2 x 1TB harddisk, saving USD 200 and you could go down from 2,6 GHz to 2,3 GHz saving another 100 USD.

          Do not go down from the 16 GB RAM.

          Consider adding an external drive for FileMaker Server backup.Thunderbolt or Firewire via apples adapter (or maybe USB 3). Consider using an external cloud backup service to move the backups offline/offsite.

           

          This server will be able to support your client for a long time to come. And with a lot more load than you are specifying.

           

          If, for principal reasons, your client insist on Windows I can give you a configuration. But the Mac mini server is my best advice for your setup!

           

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          • 2. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
            RubenVanDenBoogaard

            Hi Carsten,

             

            I am looking at a Mac Mini myself for a server.  Why do you recommend the server version if you only use 1 SSD?, I could also use the standard Mini.  My main concern is that the drives of a Mini are burried in the Mini and it takes quite some time to get them out in case something happens to the drive.

             

            Best regards,

             

            Ruben van den Boogaard

            Infomatics Software

            ruben@infomatics.nl

            • 3. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
              FileKraft

              check out the latest silent mac mini upgrade - to get to the drives is now much easier ..

               

              .regards. & good luck!

              • 4. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
                CarstenLevin

                Because you get the fully supported server for only +100 USD for the same config.

                You can of course choose to purchase the client mac and then upgrade to server afterwards. But why?

                But you are misunderstanding my argumentation if this is important - choosing the server has nothing to do with SSD or no SSD. The interesting part is that with Mac mini you get a reasonably OK server with a very easy way to expand storage - if your need for having files within FileMaker (externally stored I hope) is requiring larger disks and for extra backup etc: Thunderbolt.

                And there are very good reasons to use the server with the tools included for a server:-) although I have no principal reasons to avoid using the client form fms.

                 

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                • 5. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice

                  Hi Mark,

                   

                  You've received a range of opinions so I'll add mine.

                   

                  If the DB Administrator is much more familiar with a Windows OS than with Mac OS X, then he, or she, should probably consider staying with that platform.

                   

                  For me, however, I'm only familiar with the Mac OS so I've stuck with that for our FM Server. My preferred hardware is a used MacPro, which are readily available and well supported from a company like PowerMax.com.

                   

                  eg A used Nehalem MacPro Quad Core/2.66GHz (MacPro 4,1) with 6GB Ram is $1609. 

                   

                  Adding more RAM, a second HD for Archived Backups, a UPS and an upate for OS X will provide you with a reliable server. HD's, which are the least reliable components of any server, are easily accessible -- especially so if you want to add an SSD at some later date.

                   

                  That's my 2c!

                   

                  John

                  • 6. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
                    marksanchez

                    Hi Mark,

                    Well I used to have a Macmini 2009 version running a filemaker server 11, which used to run k. But the HD of the macmini die at one point. If you go with this solution make sure you have a second HD inside and make it RAID and connect a outside HD to run backups (ssd drives are recomended). Then I switch to a 2009 MacPro I find it more versitile cause it holds 4 internal HDs and the memory is upgradable to 64 gigs. Also the macpros have two ethernet ports where you can make them one for incoming or one for outgoing traffic or to run 2 difffrent networks(if you are running a server solution) you can find used ones on craiglist from 700 and up.

                    • 7. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
                      CarstenLevin

                      I would never even consider used/second hand hardware for servers. To many unknown factors.

                      The main issue: The disks being the most volatile part is easy to solve (just buy new disks and replace) but random errors, problematic memory and other problems is one issue. Other issues are the difference in performance between 2-3 year old hw and new hw. Also warranty etc. etc. is a part of the equation.

                      Stick with new hardware under warranty. This I believe is more important than the Mac/Win discusson.

                      • 8. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
                        taylorsharpe

                        I would have to say $1500 is a pretty tight budget for a server.  I too would recommend a Mac Mini Server with i7 processor for best performance, as well as uping the RAM to 8 or 16 Gigs (buy RAM from someone other than Apple to save a lot of money). 

                         

                        I would avoid the Mac Mini 2.5" spinning hard drives since they are slow and consumer grade.  Personally, every Mac Mini server I have set up, I have done with an external RAID for security and safety.  My preferred RAID is the Pegasus Thunderbolt due to its incredible speed and reliability.  But you'll spend $1100-2000 on it depending on the model and size.  But I find it well worth the money.  If you think you data has value, you want to store it on commercial grade storage equipment.  The nice thing about the Pegasus is that it performs faster than individual SSDs, but has the reliability and storage space of the traditional spindle drives. 

                         

                        If they can only get the Mac Mini Server this year, then have them budget next year for a high performance RAID.  And if disk space isn't a problem this year, then use SSDs over the regular hard drives. 

                         

                        I agree with Carsten to stay away from used computers for server purposes. 

                        • 9. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
                          mdenyse

                          I'm going to recommend a new Mac mini with an external drive for backups.Per Taylor's suggestion, I'll try recommending they upgrade to an external RAID in the future but for now I think they'll be happy with the performance boost just bringing this in-house (the DB is currently hosted in the cloud).

                           

                          Thanks for all the input!

                           

                          Mark

                          • 10. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
                            wjwerner1

                            We run a small IT shop and have virtualized FMSA 12 with CWP on Win Server 2008(R2) under VMware vSphere5 essentials-- works flawlessly for us.  If they might be a virtualized server shop already -- no need to shy away from the virtualized envronment IMHO.

                            • 11. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
                              CarstenLevin

                              In principe I do agree with wjwerner1. Virtualisation should work, and it does.

                              But we have been involved in 5-10 implementations of FileMaker Server on Virtual machines. Microsoft, VMWare etc.

                              Our experience is that with smaller solutions and relatively low number of users it will work just fine.

                               

                              As soon as you are having larger and more complex solutions and/or many users you will run into serious performance problems.

                               

                              Those problems can be solved, and we have seen them solved!

                              But solving is not for the IT person who does just do VM every now and then. You really need to be a VM expert to handle this.

                               

                              So if your solution is very small or is only used by very few people: Go for VM solutions. If not: Test and deploy on dedicated hardware. Then try it on the VM and see if it is still OK.

                              The reference must be the dedicated hardware. If you can make the VM work just as fast in real world use: Then go for it!

                              When you get problems - and you probably will if you are running the big solution for many users - test up against the dedicated fms hw.

                              • 12. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
                                argon18

                                Hi,

                                 

                                I had set a Filemaker Server 11 on a VM under Window 7 for 250 users, 30 main App/databases, and it was working very well.

                                • 13. Re: Looking for server hardware purchase advice
                                  CarstenLevin

                                  Hi Argon,

                                   

                                  Your FileMaker solution may be very well and efficient designed - or it could be pretty simple. Or the VM must be very well configured.

                                   

                                  Do you have 250 users using the database for hard work at the same time?

                                   

                                  Best regards

                                   

                                  Carsten