We've been hosting Mac minis now for six years. We started Macminicolo just days after the Mac mini was announced and released it to both praise and ridicule. After all this time, we're still the largest exclusively Mac mini colocation company.
Four years after we started hosting, Apple released a server-specific Mac mini. Recently, Apple Inc went on record saying the "Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server has become Apple's most popular server system." That statement was made in the transition guide that Apple made available when they announced the Xserve End of life. People fear the end os OS X Server, but Apple is likely issuing a record number of licenses for the Server OS.
Speaking of the Xserve, today marks the end of Xserve availability. Apple set the deadline at January 31, 2011. There was a pretty big backlash for a couple days, but it seems to have died down. For full disclosure, I obviously have a vested interest in the Xserve end-of-life. In fact, I bought the carnivorous XserveDeathWatch.com to track the final days and get some promotion out of it. That site didn't really go anywhere because there has really been little news. When Steve Jobs reportedly writes, "hardly anyone was buying them", I'd say this is reflecting true now.
Before I go further, I'll go on the record saying that the Xserve is a great machine. I certainly don't mean to belittle those who need them for legit reasons. It really is powerful and beautiful. And Snow Leopard Server is really great as well. The issue is that OS X Server isn't designed for reasons rack-mount servers are usually used. It can be used that way but it's really designed as a consumer/small business server OS. (That is what makes it so great.) The operating system will configure your Airport Extreme automatically. With Server Preferences, one can enable services with just a flip of a switch. A good number of our customers are running a server for their first time, but have configured VPN, and iCal server, Address Book Server, File Sharing, Mail and a web site all on their own. The OS is not intimidating at all for smaller companies. For a more in-depth post on this front, see this post by James Wilson.
So now that we have been around for some time, I want to share some numbers with you. I hope this will ease the concerns of those who are transitioning from an Xserve to a Mac mini. These are real-world numbers. Labratory results can be useful, but there's nothing like real results from everyday life. We may be the only company that can provide something like this for Mac minis.
As you can see, we've had a lot of good experience with the Mac minis. Over the years, they've been great to work with as servers. Just so it's clear, I think the Xserve is a great machine and I know there are some situations where they are necessary. I feel for those companies who now feel they are being left high and dry. I'm not trying to compare the machines head to head, but rather comparing them for different situations. For a good number of customers, the Mac minis will be a great, inexpensive option. Apple assures that "it brings great capability in a small, efficient form factor that is affordable and can be deployed anywhere. Perfect for small business and workgroups of up to 50 people, a single Mac mini can run the full suite of Mac OS X Server services. A single Mac mini can also be deployed as a single-task server for a larger number of users in a business or education environment."
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.