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Which Mac for FMAS


Eye Doc
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I am planning to start a modest database server based around FMAS.

The system is likely to serve around 10 databases and never have more that around 10 concurrent users. The databases would themselves would be relatively small with definately less than 1000 entries and probably more like 200.

I was planning on headless unit that would be hidden away and adminstered with VNC.

Would a dual G5 powermac be overkill? Would a PowerPC mac mini be enough?

Thanks for your help.

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Presuming that the number of tables, fields, and the rest of your schema fall into the modest category, then I would say a mini could handle it. Especially if it's the new mini with 1.5GHz Intel Core Solo or 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo processor. : But even the old G4 mini would likely be fine.

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Many thanks. It is a shame that the FMAS is not yet Universal and that FM are keeping quiet about when we will get a universal version.

I think I shall look for a G4 mac mini on ebay then!

Thanks again.

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Eye Doc:

The original Mac mini had a slow (4200 rpm?) hard drive, which is it's one bottleneck. I believe that the second generation G4 mini had a faster drive. As FileMaker Server is quite drive-intensive, you should try to ensure you're getting the faster unit.

-Stanley

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FMS8 uses RAM cache very effectively -- I'm hosting a fairly large database (300MB) on a mini, and even on some rather long update operations, I can tell it's operating totally from RAM (no hard drive activity). Therefore, depending on the nature of your database (more read vs. more write), drive speed may not be that big a deal.

The G5 processor, while faster than the G4, is only moderately faster on integer operations. And, I think FMS doesn't make use of the 2nd processor at all. Therefore, you may be surprised to find that a single G4 will do FMS nearly as fast as a dual G5 of equivalent clock speed.

Will a dual G5 with a fast RAID drive beat a G4mac mini? Quite. However, if you are comparing performance per watt, or performance per dollar, the G4 mini can't be beat.

As soon as universal binaries for FMS are available, the intel mini will make a very good server.

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A setup I've been experimenting with that seems to work well:

Use a G4 Mac Mini with 1GB of RAM as the server, but boot and store the data from an external bus powered 2.5" firewire drive. Hook everything up to a medium size UPS and you have a great little server machine.

You can use the mac mini's internal drive as a 2nd backup location, which provides some redundancy incase the external drive fails. And, since everything (including OSX, FileMaker Server, and your Databases) is on the external drive, if your mac mini ever fails, just buy a new one. In fact, you can even have a second spare one just sitting in the box. Total cost is under $1500.

Compare that to what you'd pay for a dual G5 XServe ($3000+) and the emergency parts kit ($999).

The G5 would be faster of course. However, the G5 uses much more electricity, meaning you either have to have a giant UPS, or else you lose a lot of power-failure runtime.

A mac mini with external bus powered firewire drive use perhaps 15-20 watts. A G5 XServe can use up to 300W according to apple.

Personally, I'd trade off a little speed for a hefty price discount, long term electric bill reduction, and ability to run for hours during a power failure...

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I am serving 28 databases on a mac mini with 512mb of ram via FMSA8, as well. Everything works well, except when I do a search (find) in several of my files. These files have 250 fields each, many of which are unstored calculations. It takes almost 3 minutes via a web browser to get the search results. I have also wondered about moving up to a G5 to see if the performance would increase for the searches.

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I am serving 28 databases on a mac mini with 512mb of ram via FMSA8, as well. Everything works well, except when I do a search (find) in several of my files. These files have 250 fields each, many of which are unstored calculations. It takes almost 3 minutes via a web browser to get the search results. I have also wondered about moving up to a G5 to see if the performance would increase for the searches.

Some suggestions:

1. Add more RAM, AND increase the size of the RAM cache in FileMaker Server.

2. Consider making some of your calculated fields stored instead of unstored. If they are unstored because they pull data from a related record, consider making them lookups or auto-enter calcs. As I'm sure you are aware, a search on a stored calc can be 100x faster than on an unstored calc.

3. Upgrade to 8v3, as it fixes bugs with searching on unstored calcs.

4. Why do you have 250 fields? Is your design normalized? Often when a table has that many fields, it's the sign of technically incorrect design.

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