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I have 7 Mac Pros and iMacs that need to be connected to the same storage. I'm doing non MPI-based numerical modeling so the transfer rates have to be fast but not infiniband fast. I'm considering a setup with a Promise Pegasus thunderbolt RAID connected to a Mac Mini running Lion server for Access controll/Roaming homer directories. The Mac Pros and iMacs would the be connected via 1Gb ethernet.

My question is where the bottlenecks in this setup would be. The server software/hardware? The network? What else am I forgetting?

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If you are doing lots of small reads, your bottleneck will likely be the raid. If you're doing large sequential reads and writes, then your bottleneck will be the mac mini providing the file sharing services. You will have 7 clients getting their storage through one Gb ethernet port on that Lion server.

You can reduce your bottleneck by giving additional ethernet ports to the server, but I don't know whether the mac mini supports that. I'm also unfamiliar with Lion's performance characteristics and whether it'll provide its own bottlenecks internally. If you're configuring the file server to run NFS, you might be better off using some sort of unix file server- a simple generic intel/AMD machine with 2-4 ethernet ports would probably be better (and possibly cheaper) than a mac mini.

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Thanks! The main reason for using a Mac mini is the simplicity and support with Lion Server. Just out of curiosity, would a machine automatically be able to benefit from a second ethernet port or would you have to make a bunch of reconfigurations? You can assume a vanilla ubuntu client installation. –  brorfred Oct 18 '11 at 14:56
    
You would likely need to team the ports, but I've never done that with Linux. It is also going to be dependant on the type of switch you're using. If you decide to go in that direction, you could start with this step by step guide to setting up a samba file server in ubuntu (help.ubuntu.com/10.04/serverguide/C/samba-fileserver.html), and then look for a guide on how to team network ports with your switch and Ubuntu. –  Basil Oct 18 '11 at 16:05

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