Pros and Cons of Using Mac Pro as a Lion Server - dummies

Pros and Cons of Using Mac Pro as a Lion Server

By John Rizzo

Mac Pro is well suited for running Lion Server because it has up to 12 processing cores, expansion slots, multiple internal drives, and two built-in Ethernet connections. Even older models make great servers. The Mac Pro doesn’t come with a monitor, but the base configuration does include an adequate graphics card.

A Mac Pro tower makes a powerful server. [Credit: Photo courtesy of Apple.]
Credit: Photo courtesy of Apple.
A Mac Pro tower makes a powerful server.

Best uses

A Mac Pro can support file serving for hundreds of active users. For example, Mac Pro works as the file server for an entire school and also runs third-party server software and NetBoot at the same time. The Mac Pro also works for running directory services and connecting a network of Macs to a Microsoft Active Directory network.

If you’re using a server only for web, e-mail, DNS, and light file-sharing tasks, the Mac Pro may be more than you need.

The Mac Pro is a better choice than the Xserve in situations when the server is to be located in a workspace. The Mac Pro is quieter than the Xserve and has a form factor that fits better in a workspace.


The Mac Pro leaves the Mac mini and the iMac in the dust as far as performance goes, and it’s just about as fast as Xserve. The high points:

  • Eight processing cores minimum and a fast system architecture: You have an optional 12 processing cores.

  • Four internal hard drive bays, one more than Xserve: With the optional RAID card, you can use these in a RAID system.

  • Easily accessible drives that can be replaced without futzing with cables. Just open the side door and slide them in or out.

  • Room for lots of memory: Eight RAM slots are available.

  • Two Gigabit Ethernet ports: This feature is designed for using the Mac Pro as a server. You can use one port to connect to the local network, and another port to connect to the Internet. This enables you to use the Mac server as a gateway, running the firewall, virtual private network server, or other gateway services. You can also use the two ports together, for twice the bandwidth.

  • Three extra expansion slots: For more Ethernet ports, add Ethernet cards.


The Mac Pro as a server also has its low points:

  • Processors aren’t easily upgradeable. Apple doesn’t support upgrading the processor and doesn’t provide directions. You have to pull apart the computer. The processors do sit in sockets that you can pull out. They aren’t easy to get to, and you really need some hardware hacking skills.

    Other World Computing offers an upgrade by mail service. Ship the tray that contains the Mac Pro processor, and the company upgrades it and ships it back to you.

  • Cost is more than the Mac mini or iMac. But you also get more server power.

Apple offers a server version of the Mac Pro. It’s similar to the entry-level Mac Pro configuration but with an extra hard drive, more memory, and Lion Server preinstalled.