Separate mac minis vs. separate VMs

I've got several mac minis (Intel) - each is dedicated to a single client, and runs FileMaker server and Apache (and sometimes a few other minor services). I've been happy with this setup, but am planning a move to the M1s soon.

There are benefits to having separate hardware servers, but also risks as well, and I'm wondering if now might be the time to virtualize?

What if instead of running N separate M1 mac minis, I ran a single M1 (maxxed out with RAM/SSD) which ran several VMs inside it. I would probably run one VM per client, since I like to keep them very isolated from each other. I would run VMs of macOS (since that's what I know) but I suppose I could run Linux VMs if that made more sense.

Madness? Genius?

Each client's workload is generally a monthly process, which tends to not overlap much in time (e.g. client 1's busy days are the 1st to 5th of the month, client 2's busy days are 10th to 15th, etc.)

You might want to check out the Mac OS license. I understand there is one or many clauses regarding the use of Mac OS in a virtual machine.

My company shied away from running Mac OS in multiple virtual machines on a single machine due to licensing issues. Don't recall the exact clause that killed our plan back then.

Hope this helps.

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Good point.

Here's the text from the macOS Big Sur license:

(iii) to install, use and run up to two (2) additional copies or instances of the Apple Software within virtual operating system environments on each Mac Computer you own or control that is already running the Apple Software, for purposes of: (a) software development; (b) testing during software development; (c) using macOS Server; or (d) personal, non-commercial use.


I'm no lawyer, but it sounds like (c) using macOS server might allow one to do commercial use if you purchase macOS server for each VM?

But even then one would be limited to N=2 clients max. Hmm...

The linux path won't work on M1, as long FMS for ubuntu is x86_64 only, so if virtualising it had to be macOS.


The Apple MacOS license has no problem with N guest OSs under a VM, but the HOST OS MUST be MacOS on Apple Hardware, effectually eliminating non-Apple hardware as a MacOS host.

Compared to traditional server hardware, the mini has none of the redundancies that provide for high reliability server services. That being said, even redundant systems can fail, and everything on one box, increases the "single-point-of-failure" probability, although redundancies mitigate that considerably.

One per Mac mini, would provide single-point-of-failure for one client FMS instance (the max FM license allows). You can mitigate the SPoF risk by using something like MirrorSync to mirror the entire server to a second mini.

Note that current M1s max out at 16gb (hopefully to change maybe this spring :slight_smile: ) but the price/performance benchmarks make it a highly attractive option as a server box, even with the additional cost of HA/FT using parallel hardware and a MirrorSync type approach.

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Hmmm… There is potential confusion here.

I just looked up Apple's Software License Agreement for Mac OS. It is as @xochi quoted. Users are limited to two copies of Mac OS X within virtual operating system environments on each Apple-branded computer… and only when used for specific purposes.

The way I interpret this section, I am limited to two virtual machines with Mac OS X on a Mac, and I must have Mac OS Server installed in each VM if I am to offer FileMaker server services from these VMs for any purpose other than software development purposes or for personal, non-commercial uses.

Can you point to any further discussion on the details? I had been thinking of using Linux on an M1.

@Malcolm I believe the limitation is only for hosting macOS VMs ("child VMs") within a macOS Host VM. In your case, you could host an infninite number of linux VMs within a macOS M1 host.

This brings up an interesting point: though I'm most familiar with macOS, if hosting FileMaker server on a Linux VM (with Apache) is relatively easy, that may be a valid solution I could use.

However, this would be a problem as @Otmar points out. ClarisPKB doesn't seem to specify if it's x86_64 or ARM for Linux, but it seems logical they would mention if they had a Linux ARM version already...

I think there isn't much to discuss about this. I haven't heard of any plans from Claris to release a FMS version for arm-linux, but who knows...

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Of course, there are ARM Linux distros. Here’s Ubuntu.

Lacking ARM Ubuntu distros aren't the issue, the lacking of an ARM FM package is it.