updated 05:57 pm EST, Fri December 6, 2013
Mac mini arrays used for iOS app testing, general computing
Social media giant Facebook isn't generally known for its Apple technology use, but a new report suggests that it may have thousands of Mac minis in its data centers. According to ex-Apple engineer and current Facebook employee Christian Legnitto, the Facebook data centers in Prineville, OR and Forest City, NC both have "racks and racks" loaded with the diminutive computer performing "hundreds of thousands of tests every couple of hours" on iOS software in development.
Facebook has made no secret of the fact that much of its backbone is Linux-based. Apple, however, requires that Apple software be run on Apple hardware, necessitating the arrays of machines. Legnitto notes that "when you're shipping to hundreds of millions of users, those one-in-a-million bugs can happen hundreds of times."
Speaking of mobile testing, test engineer Josh Kalderimis noted that "doing testing in the cloud with Linux has been typically easy, but doing it with Mac hasn't. If you wanted to do large scale, you had to do a build-your-own setup." Apple licensing terms don't allow virtualization, so for the social network to not potentially incur the wrath of Cupertino, Kalderimis said that "we play it by the book," referring to the Mac minis and the lack of virtualization solutions.
Apple's retail price on a server-version of the Mac Mini starts at $1,000 and works up from there. Facebook is clearly not paying retail for the hardware, but the performance per dollar and per unit-volume exceeds the aluminum-sided Mac Pro. Additionally, the small and flat computer takes to rack-mounting better than the forthcoming round profile Mac Pro likely will.