Since its original release, the Most affordable Mac ever has found work in unexpected places; being stuffed under the seat in a car, performing as a media center, and even taking on jobs as a server platform. It is power efficient, small and easy to manage, all qualities that make it well suited for use in alternate roles.
Now Apple appears to be catering to these special use cases, today they released a new Mac Mini specifically targeted for use as a server. The new model includes a full unlimited copy of Snow Leopard Server for $999. In contrast to Apples other hardware, there is only one configuration of the Server Mini at this time; a 2.53Ghz Core 2 Duo with 4GB of DDR3 RAM, the same Geforce 9400M found in the standard Mini, and 2 – 5400rpm, 500GB hard drives as stock. The dual hard drives are a big deal for server duty, now the operating system can be installed in a native RAID1 configuration, providing fault tolerance for continuous operation and data safety.
There is no optical drive, or even a slot in the case to accommodate one, but Apple states that the external Super Drive originally released alongside the Macbook Air will work with the new server Mini. This new model is also good deal, a stock Mini with the same specs (and only one hard drive) would cost $799 on the Apple Store, and that is before adding in the cost of Snow Leopard Server.
Apple’s website targets the new server Mini as being “designed to help you communicate, collaborate, and share information. It’s perfect for any small business or group — retail shops, doctor and law offices, classrooms, design studios — you name it.”. Their target audience is clearly not large IT departments, though we know of at least one server colocation company that will be quite pleased with the new server Mini.
While in the past users bought the desktop-focused Mac Mini and re-purposed it as a server, this time around we may actually see users buying this server Mini and using it for desktop work, as it is now the only Mac available for less than $2,499 that comes stock with 2 hard drives. This is something many users have been hoping to see for a long time. The last Mini refresh led to third parties producing kits that allowed conversion of the optical drive bay into a 2nd hard drive space, but many were reluctant to spend the money for the kit, or to have the conversion done for them, or cut and solder cables inside their machine.
Absent from this server Mini are the Lights Out Management features of the larger Xserve, however it is unlikely that the market for this new cheaper server would actually need those features, and many of them can be handled in other ways. Colocation facilities commonly offer remote power switches to enable reboot of a frozen machine, along with personal service for operating system maintenance and hardware repair.