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Inside a Huge Data Center Filled with Apple Mac Computers


…or rack thousands of them [Mac mini] together
like MacStadium, a company that has nearly 8,000 Mac minis! *ahem* ♫ Howdy there folks, I’m Quinn of Snazzy Labs
and this is the beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada as you can tell from the cliché sign! And no… I didn’t want to wait in line to stand/film
in front. This is episode 1 of my new series (which
I’ve been working on for quite a while): “I Made This!” We visit people and companies that do things
which are very much against the norm. Let’s go visit MacStadium. ♫ When you think of networking companies and
server rooms, you think of big towers with big black boxes with cables running back and
forth and lots of heat! Well… there’s lots of heat in here. But what you don’t think of is walls and walls
of… silver Mac minis?! Yeah! Quinn (Q): We’re here at MacStadium. I’m with Brian, he’s the Vice President, and
“what is it that you guys do?” Brian (B): So basically, we do Mac infrastructure
as a service. So somebody needs Macs in a data center? Instead of trying to figure it out themselves,
they tell us what they need (and how many), we stick ’em in. Q: That’s awesome! So how long has MacStadium been around? B: MacStadium started in 2013, actually in
Atlanta. And now we’re in Vegas and we’re all over
the world now, but it’s grown a lot in the last five years. Q: There aren’t many companies that do what
you do. B: No, there’s none that do it to this scale
and this type. I mean, we’ve tried to become the experts
on Mac hosting and make sure we’re the place to come, but uh, you know, Macs have been
used in the data center for a long time, but not to this scale. And now that developers need it more and more,
the demand is bigger than ever. So it turned out good in that sense. Q: That’s awesome. So, you’re running Mac minis, you’ve got Mac
Pros, you’ve got a few iMac Pros, and… B: And some Xserves! Q: And some Xserves?! There are remnants! They’re still alive! Q: So these racks, people don’t make these
racks, right? B: No, absolutely not. These are totally custom-made, patented racks. We just try to get as many Macs per square
foot as possible, and since Macs have such low power and low heat, we can really get
’em in there tight and not damage them at all. So we built these [racks] to make sure that,
they, yeah, they don’t sell these anywhere. Q: That’s awesome. So I have seen in the floors that there are
vents with air conditioning and cooling to keep things running cool, but these Mac minis
are just out in the open. B: Yeah! Q: And that’s not an issue, eh? B: Yeah, if you have a Mac mini on your computer
desk at home, you know it doesn’t really heat up—doesn’t get real loud—so the natural
circulation works good here. Mac Pros and the Xserves obviously, we try
to direct the heat still, but the Mac minis, wide open is fine. Q: So let’s talk about Mac Pro, because Mac
Pro, the current models, were released in 2013. They’re starting to show their age. And you just told me you’re putting in… 600 soon? B: Hopefully, yeah, we’ve done probably 400
in the last couple months, and there should be another 800-1,000 in the next few months. Uh, yeah, people wonder who is buying all
the Mac Pros… Q: It’s you guys! B: We’re buying all the Mac Pros.
*giggles maniacally* Q: So let’s take a look around, shall we? B: Okay, you bet. Q: Alright, so we are in an air conditioned
tunnel (cold aisle) of Mac Pros. And, why are these rooms colder than the Mac
minis? B:So, with the Mac Pros, as you know, the
heat comes in one side, and the [hot] air goes out the other, so we have them all pointed
a certain direction. So the air conditioning comes out of the floor,
through the Mac Pro, and shoots out on the other side. It’s the cold aisle of Mac Pros. Q: And Mac Pros are “workstation” hardware,
right? So do you find that they run a little more
reliably, so to speak, than the Mac mini? B: Yeah, you know, it’s like a deal of 0.01%
repairs and 0.001% repairs. I mean, they all run so reliably. But the Mac Pros, yeah, I mean they are beefier
parts, and they’re a little more expensive to repair when they do break, but either way,
we’re not repairing too much around here. Q: That’s awesome (I’ve said this like 4 times
already wow). And what’s surprising to me is that the majority
of these don’t actually have internal storage. B: Right! We put in a SAN (storage area network), and
then all Mac Pros are empty and they’re all booting the VMs from [the SAN]. And that way, customers when they need to
spin up a VM, they’re all coming from the same place, the data store is there for all
the Mac Pros, and then when they need more, they say: “we need 100 more Mac Pros,” we
don’t need to [modify] the storage—we just stick them into their existing data store
and they’re off and running. Q: And these [Mac Pros] only have Gigabit
networking, right? So, do you have Thunderbolt 2 that carries
the data connection and the storage—or… how is that all set up? B: Yeah, so what we did… we tried to make
them ready for the data center since they’re not built for that. And so you have the Gigabit, but we also use
Thunderbolt 2 to fiber channel to the SAN and we try to give it as many connections
as possible. Even then, you know, there’s only one input
of power, so what we do is we use A/B power elsewhere that runs to the Mac Pro so that
it still has redundant power. It took some real… I tell people we actually put the round peg
in the square hole (this is a reference to a famous Steve Jobs just in case you wanted
some mid-video trivia) and part of that was getting it ready for power and connections
and everything. Q: Yeah, because these are NOT made for a
server environment. B: Definitely not. A lot of people get really confused when they
walk by here trying to figure out what they are. Q: So that X70 (SAN) is running 44TB of—not
SATA SSD storage—but NVMe storage. B: Yeah, right. Q: That’s not cheap. LOL. B: That is not cheap. That is definitely not cheap. Q: And so the controllers that you have to
connect the Mac Pros to those devices for storage or networking… are those something
off the shelf? B: No, that’s completely in-house. What we did was… I mean, we patented the whole rack because
it’s so unique and we own the patent on it, but it’s not only how to slide it in and store
it, but also, you know, connect them. And we build them ourselves in-house and we
put them [the IO boxes] on the back of them [the Macs], and that’s what makes it different. Q: That’s awesome (if I say that one more
time… ugh). So we’ve got the Mac Pros here, but what you
can’t see in the back but you’ll see now is you’ve got iMac Pros too. Now, you don’t have a lot of them, but you’ve
got a few. B: Yeah, because… so, the Mac Pros are VMware
approved. So you can run ESXi on them, and you can use
them that way. But the iMac Pros and the Mac minis are not
[approved for VMware]. And so, we use what’s called Anka, and that’s
not VMware-based, but its for VMs also, and we… that’s how we make the first Mac mini
cloud, but it’s also what we use on the iMac Pros cause so far they haven’t been approved
by VMware to run VMware. So, when you need super high counts of cores
and RAM and everything, we’ll use an iMac Pro. And like I said, only a couple of customers
right now [using iMac Pro]. And of course, we get all kinds of heat [from
people] because those iMac Pros have those beautiful 5K screens and we smack them together
so that we can’t see what people are doing and maybe some days those will be useful,
but right now we’re just using the insides. Q: That’s awesome (seriously, Quinn…?). Well thank you Brian so much for your time. It’s pretty incredible what they’re doing
here. Where can customers find you? B: So MacStadium.com is the obvious one. We’ve got data centers in Atlanta, Las Vegas,
Silicon Valley, Frankfurt, Germany, Dublin, Ireland, and more to come! So we try to be as close as possible to the
developer as we can. ♫

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