Most of the coverage following Apple's announcement that Snow Leopard (a.k.a. Mac OS X 10.6) will ship on Friday 28 August has concerned the £25 desktop version. But Snow Leopard Server will also be available on the same date, at a cost of £399 (inc. VAT) with unlimited client licenses.
Of course, the server OS market is dominated by Windows and Linux, and Apple's historically restrained marketing for its server products is unlikely to change that. But committed Mac shops will be interested in what Snow Leopard Server has to offer.
First off, it's worth noting that this fully 64-bit OS will only run on Intel-based Mac servers (with 10GB of available disk space and at least 2GB of RAM). The ideal platform will be the latest generation of Xeon 5500-based XServe hardware. Full 64-bit memory addressing means that applications can process data sets bigger than 4GB in RAM; and as you add more RAM (up to a theoretical 16TB), the OS scales to support more simultaneous processes, threads and IP connections.
New features in Snow Leopard Server include iCal Server 2 for sharing calendars, scheduling meetings and co-ordinating workgroup events, now with push support (also a new feature of Mail Server). Podcast Producer 2 provides a complete podcast-production platform (including video capture tools), while Wiki Server 2 now adds Quick Look support for standard file formats — you just click the Quick Look icon to view a file without downloading it. Address Book Server adds a new protocol, CardDAV, that allows users' personal contacts to be stored as standard vCard files on the server, outside the organisation's centralised LDAP directory. Mobile Access Server provides Mac or iPhone users with secure, VPN-free, access to network resources from anywhere with an internet connection.
Apple claims that Snow Leopard is 'up to 2x faster' than its predecessor for operations such as file sharing, mail and web hosting. You can see some more detail here, but we await independent comparative tests and will report further in due course.
Anyone who bought a suitable Mac or XServe from 8 June with the previous version (Leopard Server) will be able upgrade to the new server OS for the cost of shipping and handling.