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Mac mini Colocation and Hosting by the numbers

By the numbers

With the Xserve leaving today, here is a look at the Mac mini option

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 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.

  • 1,278 - Total amount of Mac minis that have come through the Macminicolo data center. The majority of the machines are still here, even some machines that were setup on the very first day the Mac mini was available.

  • 3,500,000 - The most number of hits served on a website from a Mac mini. At least, this is the highest I know of since we don't know what's running on a majority of the machines. This hit count came from a Mac mini I managed that was running my site (That site was sold a few years ago and has since been plastered with ads so I'm not even hotlinking to it.)

  • 11 - Machines that required hardware repair. This includes 5 dead hard drives, 4 dead motherboards,  1 dead power adapter, 1 corrupted memory module.Part of this speaks to the quality of the Mac mini build. But some longevity can be contributed to the perfectly clean power and controlled environment in the data center. It's like a day spa for minis.

  • 2 years 264 days - Considering only those 11 machines, this is the average time the Mac mini was used before the hardware repair was needed. 

  • 0 - The number of ethernet ports gone bad. I'm always surprised that this is such a point of contention with server admins that mock the Mac mini as a server. (Of course, you can add a second ethernet with the USB adapter as well.)

  • 2.66 Duo, 1TB, 4GB, 3MB, $999 - The specs of a Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server. Processor, Storage, RAM, L2 cache, price respectively. They're incredibly capable.

  • 0 - A few years ago, we stopped taking Xserves and all current Xserve customers needed to be moved to Mac minis. After the move to minis, there were no customers that found the performance unsatisfactory. In fact, many moved from G5 Xserves to Intel Mac minis and saw a performance boost. This confirms to me that a lot of companies overbuy when it comes to server hardware. 

  • 1 - Number of customers who took advantage of our 30 day cancellation policy. We get asked often what options a customer has if they sign up for a Mac mini server and find it's not powerful enough to use. But, in all our years, only one person signed up and found the Mac mini wasn't going to work for them.

  • $3,777 - Amount saved by hosting on a Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server. If you purchased a base Xserve and host it for two years, it would cost you $3,777 more than purchasing a Mac mini server and hosting it in a data center. With the Mac mini you get the same OS, 1GB more of RAM and six times the amount of data storage. With the Xserve you get a more power processor and some redundance in power and ethernet connections. (Though, with the money saved, you could buy three more Mac mini servers. How's that for redundancy?)

  • 20 - Ok, this doesn't have to do with the Mac mini specifically, but that's the number of on-net carriers our data center has ran to it. How cool is that? 

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.

About Macminicolo
Macminicolo, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 36 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.

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