Why Apple had to kill the Xserve

Summary:For Apple to grow, the Xserve had to die.

When I wrote about Apple officially killing off their enterprise server product line, Xserve, last November, I was assured by Apple loyalists that there would soon be something bigger and better coming from their favorite hardware company. My inbox was flooded with messages telling me to be on the lookout for a new Apple server product that addressed my concerns about actual datacenter issues, such as rack mounting capabilities, hot swappable drives and power supplies, and lights out management.

It's time to face facts, folks. Apple is not an enterprise hardware company. They make consumer computing stuff and any corporate penetration is a reflection of their success in the consumer world, not the result of a carefully thought out plan of enterprise dominance. I'm pretty sure that Apple has far more people working on the design of the iPhone 6 than they ever had, or will ever likely have, worrying about any product in the enterprise hardware space.

And that is why the Xserve had to die. Take a look at this image of Steve Jobs standing in front of a picture of his new server room (thanks to engadget.com) and you'll see that there isn't an Xserve, or any derivative hardware, anywhere in sight. In fact, the room appears to have rack after rack of HP Proliant DL 380 G7 servers. And I'm pretty sure that they aren't even running OS X Server (which Apple has never used in any of their datacenters as the primary OS). 

This isn't to say that there aren't lots of good reasons for this choice; in fact Apple seems to be doing the same thing I do when family and friends ask me about what computer equipment to buy (on an infinitely larger scale); they are buying from the vendor that can provide the best service and requires the least handholding from the customer.

Say what you will about Microsoft, but they have always run their datacenters on their own software and products.  When they have used third-party software they were honest about it, as well as their efforts to replace any third-party product they found necessary with their own software.  In the vernacular, they "ate their own dog food."  And this was one thing that Apple was never, ever going to do in the datacenter.

From the point that Apple decided to focus on cloud services and build giant datacenters, Xserve, and realistically, OS X Server, was dead for all but the most rabid fan. If you can't point to your own gigantic sever infrastructure and point out why your enterprise hardware and software is the best, how would you ever expect to sell it to your customers?

Buyers of enterprise technology have been dealing with the smoke and mirrors of the enterprise equipment sales process for almost 50 years. They know that regardless of how pretty the magician's assistant is, their jobs are on the line for their purchase decisions.  A vendor that can't even commit to their own product isn't going to get much sympathy from these guys.

Topics: Storage, Apple, Data Centers, Hardware, Servers

About

With more than 20 years of published writings about technology, as well as industry stints as everything from a database developer to CTO, David Chernicoff has earned the term "veteran" in the technology world. Currently the principal of an independent consulting business and an active freelance writer, David has most recently been a Seni... Full Bio

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