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Type of Use as a Requirement for Your Lion Server Hardware

Before you think about processor speeds for your Mac OS X Lion Server, do some planning to determine what you’ll be doing with the server. This describes some typical uses listed in approximate order of demand they place on your server hardware, from least to most demanding.

Web servers: Lightweight server use

Web servers use low amounts of hardware resources. The server often caches web pages and doesn’t have to access the hard drive to load web pages. Web serving also doesn’t take a lot of RAM or processing power. You can run a web server on any Mac that Lion Server runs on, and you can generally run it along with other services without affecting their performances.

E-mail, DNS (domain name service), and Internet gateway functions are similarly lightweight services.

File servers: Light on processor, big in storage

File serving is not an intensive use of the server hardware. File servers primarily need a lot of storage. You can choose among a wide range of Macs for use as file servers, as long as the Mac has enough hard drive space. Unless you have a lot of users, file servers can run alongside other services.

Backing up users’ Macs and PCs to the server with a server-based backup program is also a type of file sharing and a lightweight use of server processing power.

Database server: Moving lots of data

If you install a third-party database server, it can take more resources than file serving, especially if a lot of users are accessing the database. A database server can require more frequent use of the hard drive and processor than file servers, depending on the data being served and how often.

Podcast Producer: Processor-intensive requirements

Podcast Producer or another video-related server can make heavy use of hardware; it uses a lot of RAM, hard drive space, and processing power for the video encoding. Video encoding is also one of the only Mac OS X Server functions that use the graphics processor.

Directory services: Give it what it needs

Directory services, supplied by Open Directory in Mac OS X Server, can be one of the most actively used services on the network, particularly a large network. Don’t underpower a directory server, or you may slow the whole network.

Directory servers store information about users and groups, permissions, and configuration information for client computers; they authenticate clients and store information that determines which clients can access which files.

Running directory services on a midsize to large network is equivalent to running multiple databases simultaneously. Fast storage is the most important directory services requirement for any size network. A lot of memory is necessary to keep up performance. For large networks, consider dedicating a server for directory services. For smaller networks, running directory service along with other services should work fine.

NetBoot: Heavy-duty server stress

NetBoot probably places more demand on the server’s hardware resources than any other service in Mac OS X Server. NetBoot is where client Macs boot from the server itself instead of from their local hard drives. Even for a small network, you need a fast Mac server with multiple processors and fast hard drive storage, and lots of it.

Wireless networking is too slow for NetBoot, which is why it supports only Ethernet connections. A server with multiple Ethernet interfaces can prevent slowdowns. Check your Ethernet switch: You’ll want 100BaseT at a minimum, and Gigabit Ethernet is better. Your network will slow to a crawl if you have an old 10BaseT switch and are using NetBoot.

With a lot of Mac clients, NetBoot may be too much for one server to handle, so the software supports load balancing on multiple Mac servers.

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