How to chose an server for a small mac digital media lab?
August 20, 2009 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out my options for setting up a small digital media lab for a new non-profit, but I have no idea how to set a minimum level of server specs! How much CPU and RAM do I really need? What determines this? The server will be used to administer local user accounts, and store files (including large media files). We may also end up using it to host our website and mail, if it makes sense (unlikely). All the main client computers will be macs, so I assume I should make life easier and just get an XServe. But I'm open to other suggestions. See below for some prices and models for various XServe's I'm trying to choose between. How low can I go? How much CPU/RAM do I need? Let me know if you need more information...

Best Used Xserve Prices

* 2.0 GHz single G5, $800 (no OS), $1,000 (10.3 unlimited or 10.4 10 user), MacResource
* 2.0 GHz dual G5, $1,000 (10.3 10 user), $1,100 (10.4 10 user), MacResource
* 2.3 GHz dual G5, $1,649 shipped (10.4 unlimited), Power Max

Best Refurbished Xserve Prices
* 2.66 Ghz 4-core Xeon, $2,399, Apple
* 2.8 GHz 4-core Xeon, $2,100, Small Dog
* 3.0 GHz 4-core Xeon, $2,799, Apple

Best New Xserve Prices
* 2.26 GHz 4-core Nehalem, $2,888 shipped, Power Max
* 2.26 GHz 8-core Nehalem, $3,449 + shipping, ExperCom
* 2.66 GHz 8-core Nehalem, $4,799 + shipping, ExperCom
* 2.93 GHz 8-core Nehalem, $5,999 + shipping, ExperCom
posted by yuletide to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
A few questions off the top of my head-

- How many client Macs does this need to support? How many do you expect to be in use simultaneously?

- Are these client Macs dedicated to single users or shared workstations?

- Related to the above two: Is this a real network you need to set up or essentially just a shared file server?

- How much file storage do you need? Do you have a backup strategy?

We may also end up using it to host our website and mail, if it makes sense (unlikely).

Forget this. Here there be dragons. Host your mail at Google. Hosted web space is dirt cheap if Google can't do what you need.
posted by mkultra at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2009


Also, what's your budget?
posted by mkultra at 11:53 AM on August 20, 2009


Initially it should support about 5 clients, in use simultaneously, all editing large video files hosted on a few big HD's with some attached backup drive. Mid-level option would be a basic RAID array.

Budget is the big question, though. That's what I'm trying to figure out, is what is the minimum/middle/max budget for the server? Below what level can't we go? If we end up with more money, then we can go with a middle option. Lots more money, and we get a new luxurious XServe (etc...)

Also, the number of clients depends partly on the amount of space. I'd be interested to hear how the minimum specs for 5 clients would change to accomodate 10 clients.

What do you mean by a "real network" vs. shared file server? I suppose the latter, but the client macs should be shared workstations, so they have to handle all the authentication and user accounts as well.
posted by yuletide at 12:19 PM on August 20, 2009


I'm not going to be much help with actual pricing, but your needs (few clients working with files that are few in number but large in size) don't seem to be bound by CPU speed and memory (though honestly, when in doubt, more RAM- it's cheap relative to other parts) as much as network throughput, disk space, and disk speed.

What do you mean by a "real network" vs. shared file server? I suppose the latter, but the client macs should be shared workstations, so they have to handle all the authentication and user accounts as well.

The distinction generally falls in whether you need to centralize authentication, which is sounds like you do.

Don't cheap out on your networking equipment.
posted by mkultra at 12:54 PM on August 20, 2009


I was planning to use a Cisco CE500 24-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch: (http://www.techsoup.org/stock/product.asp?catalog_name=TechSoupMain&product_id=G-41451). And then a bunch of

So I could get away with the lowest-spec XServe? I guess I'd only be bound by what 10.6 Server needs in order to run. Though I suppose for real bare-bones we could deal with 10.4 or whatever came with the server...
posted by yuletide at 12:03 PM on August 22, 2009


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