Missing the Xserve? Sonnet has a rack-mounted answer

If you're missing Apple's Xserve line of computers, then Sonnet's xMac Mini Server is one way to get your Mac back into the rack.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
2 min read

Apple's Xserve computers were a rack-mountable line of Macintosh systems designed for enterprise use; however, in 2011 Apple abandoned the project, leaving only its Mac Pro and Mac Mini with available server options. Though anyone can download the OS X Server tools from the Mac App Store and convert any current Mac into a server system, some may wish to get a rack-mounted setup going again.

Fortunately, even though the demise of the Xserve means there aren't officially supported rack-based options from Apple, there are some ways you can get your Macs back into the rack. Of course, one option is to simply place a couple of Mac Pro or Mac Mini systems on a standard rack shelf or drawer (such as the MK1 Mac Min Rack Adapter or H-Squared Mini Rack). However, if you want a dedicated rack-mounted unit, there's Sonnet's xMac Mini Server.

Sonnet xMac Mini Server
The xMac Mini Server houses a Mac Mini and connections for an external PCIe bus. Sonnet Technologies

This device is essentially a rack tray for Apple's Mac Mini, but in addition to a built-in power supply and pass-through connections for the Mac's built-in inputs, it offers PCI Express expansion through a Thunderbolt connection to the Mac Mini. You can place a Mac Mini (purchased separately) in the xMac Mini Server, attach the power, Thunderbolt, and extension cables for the Mac's built-in Ethernet, HDMI, audio, and USB ports, and then slide the whole unit into a standard rack.

While Sonnet's xMac Mini Server has been available for a while, it has recently been updated to support the same full-length, full-height x16 PCIe card along with another half-length x8 PCIe card, but in addition include BNC connector support and brackets for mounting a daughter card. The updated system is also reduced in length, and has three USB 3.0 ports, one on the front of the chassis, and a Thunderbolt pass-through port for additional Thunderbolt-based expansion devices.

With this setup, using a number of compatible PCIe cards you can use your Mac Mini for a number of different server and controller configurations, whether to create a simple storage manager or a media-processing center.

The xMac Mini Server is a bit pricey at $1,295 per unit so it may not be suitable for everyone, but it does fill in that rack-mount gap in Apple's lineup, and gives your Mac Mini expansion capability with PCIe options.

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