2013 Apple Mac Pro as a virtualization platform? Think about it...

Posted by Paul Braren on Jun 11 2013 in
  • ESXi
  • Hyper-V
  • Mac
  • Memory
  • OSX
  • Yeah, nothing polarizes opinions more than talking about Apple. Hang on a second though, keep an open mind. I've used PCs since the mid 1980s, and I have to admit, from an engineering and design perspective, little out there impresses me like the surprisingly affordable 2011 Mac mini. Excellent design, with easy upgrades despite its diminutive size. Read more about MacZilla here. So here we are 2 years later, and the new, much smaller Mac Pro is arriving this fall, with some pretty impressive specs. Assuming that GPU doesn't burn watts too badly when idle, this might wind up being a sweet virtualization system. Before you laugh, hang on a second. Think about it.

    Intel Xeon CPU
    Server class Xeon CPUs and memory, in a tiny case optimized for optimal heat transfer, and just one fan. Makes me tend to think it'll likely be one of, if not the most efficient Xeon based system out there. Which is why I think it could be suitable as a home virtualization server.

    DDR3 Memory at 1866MHz
    And given it's a Xeon, it may be able to allow something beyond 32GB maximum memory someday, unlike the 32GB limited Haswells, read more here.

    PCI SSD at 1250MB/s
    Then think about that fast SSD for some local storage. We're all bumping up against the 550MB/sec maximums these days on the latest SSDs out there, so imagine 1250MB/sec speeds, without resorting to RAID controllers. Thin provisioning of those VMs you'd store there means you can squeeze a full Windows 8 into under 12GB of space, and they'd sure be fast.

    High Speed Ports / Expansion
    Whatever happens, it'll be one mean little 9.9 inch tall by 6.6 inch wide beast, with plenty of high speed external expansion ports for expansion, and 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports built-in. Whether individual Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 ports, or even the beastly GPU can be passed through to VMs may not matter for too much longer, should those interfaces get native VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V support soon. Perhaps even effective GPU sharing of some sort, someday.

    The Mac mini is really just laptop components crammed into a nice tiny flat chassis. The Mac Pro is really just a server, stuffed into an upright cylinder, that takes about the same desk space as the mini.

    Yeah, we can also count on the Mac Pro being rather pricey. But even though it'll be out of reach for most, inspired design can only help the rest of the industry through increased competition. Hasn't innovation in the server and workstation marketplace stagnated long enough already?

    Speaking of workstations, this thing might actually be quiet and cool enough to sit near to as well. An ugly 6" duct might even fit nicely on that shiny round top, moving heat away from humans. Hmm...