Unboxing the Sonnet xMAC Pro Server and Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit for Mac Pro 6,1

In this post, we un-box the Sonnet xMac Pro Server rack kit. We also show the Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit, specifically the Storage Expansion x8 Edition (8 drive bays). We also briefly discuss use-cases for combining multiple nodes into a clustered solution such as VMware vSAN.

Racked and Running

First, the reason for the post; When people see the Mac Pro 6,1 in a rack, they want to know the ingredients.

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About Sonnet

I am just a customer, so I have no connection to Sonnet Tech other than using their kits. These have been out for some years now. They are great for data center, recording studios, professional A/V, on-location, etc. You can buy from their site directly or via normal online shopping for new or used models.

Getting Started

Things start out fairly boring... with some plain-old cardboard boxes.

Let's take a look; Below, we have both of the boxes that are in-scope for this article: The xMac Pro Server rack kit and the Storage Expansion x8 Edition.
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Sonnet xMac Pro Server

Top view of the the Sonnet xMac Pro Server rack kit, in the open box.
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PCIe Slots

When racked in the Sonnet xMacPro Server rack kit, the Apple Mac Pro 6,1 gains 3 PCIe slots. This will convert Thunderbolt 2 to PCIe making any card you put in there ready for the Mac Pro.

PCIe-Slots-Sonnet-xMAC-Pro-Server

There are probably limitations and an HCL of some sort from Sonnet, but they make it easy and always provide a supported PCIe card. For example, all of my kits came with the ATTO H680 Raid Controller, but that was some time ago; They ship more modern versions now.

Storage Expansion Kit

The Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit comes in several versions. In this article, we look exclusively at the Storage Expansion x8 Edition. Let's unbox it!
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Storage Kit Contents

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Included ATTO Raid Card

The Storage Kit comes with the latest ATTO PCIe RAID card. At the time I ordered it was the H680, now it is an updated version. My H680 is not on the HCL for VMware vSAN but it works great!
ATTO-H680-RAID-Controller

Storage Kit Drive Bays

Each xMac Pro Server can fit one of these. No disks are included; You populate with your own magnetic or SSD.
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Workbench

While testing, you can power on the Mac Pro outside of the rack. You have full access to one or more disks via Thunderbolt. This is good enough to get updates and plan your layout. For proper cooling, the case should be closed and racked in a temperature controlled datacenter or similar.
Workbench-xMac-Pro-Server

USB,Thunderbolt, etc.

When ready to rack, connect the Mac Pro cabling and slide into the chassis enclosure. Sonnet provides a bundle of cables that are hardwired to the chassis. There are Four (4) USB ports and Two (2) ethernet connections. Then, I populate some additional Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt to Ethernet connections.
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The turn x 10 illustration indicates how to adjust the pin that presses the power button.

Next Steps

Things you can do next would be connecting a display and powering on. You can go through the normal Apple start-up sequence and get your updates, etc. This is important in order to get the latest firmware from Apple for your Mac Pro 6,1. Always do this before installing any other OS including ESXi.

Maintenance

There is no out of band management. You need to connect a crash cart (keyboard, mouse, monitor) if you need to interact with the system. Also there is no way to install updated firmware other than installing an Apple operating system. For example, after deploying ESXi using this kit, in some time I will need to wipe ESXi on each host, and install MacOS and update. Once I get the latest firmware, I can reinstall ESXi. You will have to learn how to do this best for your situation (i.e. USB boot, etc.).

Summary

In this article we un-boxed the Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit and Storage Expansion x8 Edition for Mac Pro 6,1. We also discussed some basic networking options. Remember to always check the HCL for supported solutions.


About the Photos
The photographs in this post are all original. The images were down-sampled for minimal file size (each less than 300k). Feel free to use as desired without credit.