8 Replies Latest reply: Aug 28, 2012 4:05 PM by Eric.
Keith7WA Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

We're migrating from on old G5 Xserve and I'm considering several configurations for our new workgroup server.

I want to get a MacMini running Mountain Lion Server with two 750GB internal drives. These will both be erased, set up as RAID mirror, and used for Data only.

 

For the system drive I would boot from a small (64GB or 128GB) external Thunderbolt drive. It would act as a dedicated OS drive.

 

Will this work? And other than a little bit more storage room, would that give me any advantage over having both my OS and Data on the internal RAID? I've heard that having your OS isolated can be beneficial for some reason.

 

A few other tidbits:

We have a robust backup routine and the RAID and the OS volume would be backed up nightly with weekly rotational offsite backup as well.

The network consists of about 5 wired client computers, 5 IP phones and a switch or two (and a cable modem and router). All gigabit.

 

I think I've decided against SSD drives due to cost and that the network will be more of a bottleneck than the drive access speed. However, if there is some advantage to the external OS drive being SSD, Elgato has a nice thunderbolt solution for reasonable money that I would consider.

 

Feedback appreciated!


Mac mini, OS X Server
  • 1. Re: Running Mac Mini OS X Server from External Drive
    John Lockwood Level 5 Level 5 (5,360 points)

    Yes this is a good approach. Keeping the data on a separate volume will make it easier to upgrade to new OS versions, or to do a complete restore of the OS in the event of a major problem.

     

    Depending on your anticipated storage requirements you could instead use an external RAID solution such as the http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=630 which uses Thunderbolt and supports RAID1 mirroring in hardware (unlike the Lacie equivalent which uses software RAID).

     

    For even more capacity and performance there is the Promise R4 or R6 which supports four or six drives and RAID5. See http://www.promise.com/storage/raid_series.aspx?region=en-US&m=1040&sub_m=sub_m_ 7&rsn1=40&rsn3=47&statistic=pegasus

     

    There is also due out soon the Drobo 5D http://www.drobo.com/products/professionals/drobo-5d/index.php

     

    If you got any of these you could use them for data storage (with RAID) and then use both internal drives for the OS and still have RAID protecting that as well.

     

    For the number of clients you are suggesting SSD would probably be overkill.

  • 2. Re: Running Mac Mini OS X Server from External Drive
    Keith7WA Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks John, those are good points. And thanks so much for the links. That Drobo enclosure with all SSD drives would be faster than as Aston Martin! And only slightly less money 

     

    We do have a Buffalo drive array that holds 8 eSATA drives and we could definitely use 2 of those bays for data -- however it's only FW400, so not entirely speedy. Although, going back to my thought about the network and switches likley being the slowest part of the chain then maybe it doesn't matter?

     

    For some reason I just kind of hate the idea of having a Mini server and all it's got in it is a tiny OS! But it does makes sense from an integrity standpoint. Also, someone pointed out how difficult it is to replace drives in a Mac Mini when they fail, and data drives do get hammered on...

     

    Back to the original question, in case I decide to give it a go, do you happen to know for certain if a MM server will boot and run just fine off an external OS drive?

     

  • 3. Re: Running Mac Mini OS X Server from External Drive
    HenryS Level 2 Level 2 (295 points)

    My older Mac Mini is running Server just fine from a separate boot drive via USB (it's a 2.5" SATA drive in an enclosure we're using for a test bed of the ML 10.8.1 + Server). Runs fine! In fact found this thread while looking for info on the best way to migrate it to my startup internal (single drive), if you can suggest something. Bsed on this performance, if I had a FW800 drive to spare for the startup and a RAID config for the data that would be really sweet. I only support 4 users with Filesharing, DNS, OpenDirectory, and ProfileManager.

  • 4. Re: Running Mac Mini OS X Server from External Drive
    Keith7WA Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Great to know! I'm currently really torn between using an external drive as the OS with the 2 internal drives in RAID for the data versus -- OS on one internal drive and data on the other (and foregoing the RAID since we have a robust nightly backup of everything). That does mean potentially losing one whole day of work if the internal Data drive failed however. Tough choice!

     

    As far as migrating ML+Server from your external drive to the Mini's internal drive, how about:

    Use a 2nd computer, mount the external OS drive on its desktop and attach the Mini in Target disk mode.

    Then use Carbon Copy Cloner (or similar) to make an exact clone of that external disk to the Mini's internal.

     

    That assumes there's no data you want to keep on the Mini's existing drive. If you do want to keep data, and if there's already server software configured on there then there's an upgrade path -- but it looks like it's only if you have Snow Leopard or newer:

     

    http://www.apple.com/osx/server/how-to-upgrade/

  • 5. Re: Running Mac Mini OS X Server from External Drive
    HenryS Level 2 Level 2 (295 points)

    Keith7WA wrote:

     

    ...

    That assumes there's no data you want to keep on the Mini's existing drive. If you do want to keep data, and if there's already server software configured on there then there's an upgrade path -- but it looks like it's only if you have Snow Leopard or newer:

     

    http://www.apple.com/osx/server/how-to-upgrade/

    Yeah, Keith, I read that KB. But it doesn't talk about migrating from ML Server on one machine to a like configuration on another (or more precisely a new drive on the same machine). I already have been able to move the database to another location, that's part of it. I will try the rest of the method they describe and see if any of it works for my situation.

     

    I just have a JBOD drive arrangement and use it mainly for backup purposes, and otherwise for File Share, and future uses like DNS, music shares, and Profiles. Have no real need for many of the other myriad services on Server. It has been a boon with file share though, and fairly simple behaving trouble free, so far. At one time I considered a Drobo for the drive set, but found several drives already on hand. Cobbled them together for a backup set. Four FW (3x1.5TB, and a 2.1TB) drives, and four SATA standalones (a 500GB, a 320GB, a 300GB, and an 80GB) comprise my JBOD.

     

    Without a NAS I could not mix and match in a RAID configuration and even with one, the overhead (with a NAS device) might not be too efficient. I was able to organize my JBOD's for the best arrangement and fit my backups and shares together neatly and logically. Running ~80% full.

     

    You're right that the startup drive's failure is a distinct possiblility. If the Mini's boot volume were to quit tomorrow, I would use the exact set up I have in place now, an external bootable USB drive. It's not quick but works fine. Since I'm not in a commerical environment, this could be down for a day with no worries. The internal 120GB would have to get replaced at one point, probably with an SSD or combo drive package (SSD+HDD, if it would fit). Also I will be upgrading the OS on one or the other going forward, alternating between them.

  • 6. Re: Running Mac Mini OS X Server from External Drive
    Eric. Level 6 Level 6 (12,260 points)

    Keith7WA wrote:

     

    Great to know! I'm currently really torn between using an external drive as the OS with the 2 internal drives in RAID for the data versus -- OS on one internal drive and data on the other (and foregoing the RAID since we have a robust nightly backup of everything). That does mean potentially losing one whole day of work if the internal Data drive failed however. Tough choice!

     

    As far as migrating ML+Server from your external drive to the Mini's internal drive, how about: Use a 2nd computer, mount the external OS drive on its desktop and attach the Mini in Target disk mode. Then use Carbon Copy Cloner (or similar) to make an exact clone of that external disk to the Mini's internal.

     

     

    As far as the non-RAID setup (1 internal boot, 1 internal data), if you run the OS really lean and moved as much data (user/home directories, server data, sw updates, shares, etc.) to the 2d drive, then one day for a restore is probably a bit of an overestimate.

     

    I setup my Mini Server that way with an even smaller 500GB HDs, but it's just a home server. I probably only have around 10-12 GB on the OS HD. CCC probably took less than 30 min. to back that up, and it would take about that to restore.

     

    If you decided to put the sw updates for Software Update service -- I think around 100GB for all if it -- on the OS boot drive, then it will take you longer *if* you backup and restore the *entire* HD in an emergency. But with CCC in an emergency you could deselect that directory for the restore. Selective backup/restores is a handy freature of CCC....thinking of which...

     

    You could always make disaster provisions in advance. Use CCC to clone the OS HD to a USB pendrive or an external FW/USB/TB external. Depending on how fat your OS HD gets, you could clone it all or just partially (leaving behind non-critical 3d party apps, sw updates, etc.) You can schedule daily, weekly, or whatever clones with CCC in the wee hours of the morning. If the internal OS HD goes down,  boot off the clone on the external. An additional backup to add to your routine that's pretty inexpensive -- unless you go TB SDD -- that should reduce downtime if the OS HD tanks. (Even if you decide the RAID the internal HDs for data, and use an external as your main OS HD, a separate additional bootable clone for disasters isn't a bad idea in a work environment.)

     

    Restoring the OS onto a new internal HD, you could actually do on another Mac. Once it's ready, you can replace it at a more convenient time -- although that's not a user servicible part on a Mini is it?

  • 7. Re: Running Mac Mini OS X Server from External Drive
    Keith7WA Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Apparently the Mini's are a PITA to open and replace or add drives to.

     

    My comment about potentially losing a day's worth of work is that if forego having a RAID setup then, assuming our last backup was the night before, if the data drive failed at the end of a workday (prior to the next backup) then everyone's work that was written to that data drive that day would be gone.

     

    The latest scenario I'm considering is the dual-drive MacMini Server, put the OS on one of the drives and Data on the other -- then running a mid-day backup (or 2!) as well as the nightly backup. (We also alternate these nightly backups between 2 different drives).

     

    I think that represents reasonable risk management for the kind of work we do  which is graphic design, not legal/medical etc.

     

    Like you suggested for the OS, I'll use CCC (or similar) to create a bootable clone. Weekly is probably sufficient, but then again no real downside to doing it nightly I guess since it's all automated.

     

    And -- for both the Data and OS drives we keep offsite backups as well in case of flood, fire, EMP's, etc. Those are more like monthly -- but that's OK as those events represent the worst case scenario and are relatively low in liklihood.

  • 8. Re: Running Mac Mini OS X Server from External Drive
    Eric. Level 6 Level 6 (12,260 points)

    Keith7WA wrote:

     

    Apparently the Mini's are a PITA to open and replace or add drives to.

     

    The latest scenario I'm considering is the dual-drive MacMini Server, put the OS on one of the drives and Data on the other -- then running a mid-day backup (or 2!) as well as the nightly backup. (We also alternate these nightly backups between 2 different drives).

     

    I think that represents reasonable risk management for the kind of work we do  which is graphic design, not legal/medical etc.

     

    Like you suggested for the OS, I'll use CCC (or similar) to create a bootable clone. Weekly is probably sufficient, but then again no real downside to doing it nightly I guess since it's all automated.

     

    Keith,

     

    The more I think about your situation, the more I think you probably might want to return to the original ideal of the OS on the internals, be it RAID1 or JBOD with CCC cloning on the 2d drive. CCC to clone the OS onto an external HD as well. The user data would go on an external RAID of some sort.

     

    This gives you more "portability" in the event the Mini Server goes down completely, e.g. motherboard failure. With the current user data on an external, and another external with the OS, all you would need to get back running with the current data is a compatible Mac with the external and one that can boot the OS on the external.

     

    If the main drive for the current user data is stored on an internal HD, then there's a chance that people's current work (before the next backup got to run) is locked inside the dead Mini. They're either have to redo it or wait until you can get the HDs out to get to the data.

     

    If the Minis weren't so hard to work on and get the HDs out, then I'd probably have a different opinion. If the user data goes on an external, then I'd go cheap on the Mini, i.e. 500MB HDs, and use the extra bit of cash for the externals.