Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

Summary: Apple officially called an end to its server line on Tuesday and it's a bitter pill for some Mac stalwarts in the data center. Part of the problem is that enterprise customers have a comfort-level problem when it comes to living with questions about Apple's product and strategic plans like the rest of us.

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TOPICS: Servers, Apple, Hardware
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Apple officially called an end to its server line on Tuesday and it's a bitter pill for some Mac stalwarts in the data center. Part of the problem is that enterprise customers have a comfort-level problem when it comes to living with questions about Apple's product and strategic plans like the rest of us. Cupertino's cone of silence is absolute, whether it's the details of the next iPad or the continuing support for Mac OS X Server.

The pot was boiling over on Apple's Mac OS X mailing list. Some said just run Mac OS X Server on a Mac mini or Mac Pro, while others, such as systems engineer Dave Schroeder, said this wasn't an acceptable option.

The "truth" is that Apple is, and has been, de-emphasizing server, professional, and enterprise products. As Apple executive leadership, including Steve Jobs, has either implied or directly said, verbatim, that "Apple is not an enterprise company", what conclusions shall we draw from that? For the first time, there is no companion Server splash pages for a future version of Mac OS X Server. Sure, there may be a Lion Server, but then ... ?

Like many large Apple sites, we have had, and continue to have, a significant investment in Apple server products. The discontinuation of Xserve RAID and then Xserve were complete surprises, not only to us, but to other major enterprise vendors with whom Apple has a relationship. Yeah, we know Apple doesn't do roadmaps. That's fine. We deal. Always have. But even without a "roadmap", we can see the direction things are headed.

Of course, Apple doesn't really talk about any forthcoming strategy, or product feature or even future. What you see at the moment is what you get, until the cover is pulled off the new product or model. This isn't what enterprise technology managers want from a relationship with a major supplier.

This behavior can be maddening, no doubt. "Savvy" suppliers such as Microsoft and open source projects let customers know their plans long in advance. However, I would point out that Redmond doesn't have a stellar record of making its deadlines or following through on the detailed projections of technologies shown to the analysts and IT directors year after year.

Apple has mostly followed through on its promises to developers and actually shipped the features that it has shown in advance and mostly on time. Yes, the company's focus is on its consumer platforms, and it appears that its message to business users is to stuff it.

Yet, it's hard to fault Cupertino for finally admitting that there wasn't much of a market for its server hardware.

At the same time as Apple's focus is on the main-stream consumer customer, it is making headway in the enterprise. Maybe not in the data center, but Macs are making their way out of the marketing department and are being found in all departments. And the iPad is being deployed in the thousands.

Last week at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco, I spoke with Wally Tonra, vice president of sales at business management software vendor xTuple, about Macs in the enterprise. (And yes, there were some enterprise products on the show floor amid the iPad mania.) He said the Mac is making headway into the enterprise.

"People come and knock on [Apple's] door, and [Apple] says they're not interested. But this 'strategy' is working! The Mac is being accepted in the enterprise in spite of Apple's strategy of neglect."

For those interested in Mac minis as a server platform, hardware-mounting vendor H-Squared showed the Mini Rack, a forthcoming rack mount for Mac minis at the Expo. Due to ship in March or April, each unit can hold up to 6 minis in vertical aspect. Here are some shots I took of it.

From the company blog:

When used with a 29" rack, you can pack up to 18 Mac minis in 5U of space. That's 36 cores!

Each rail holds 6 Mac minis, secured by our very own Mini mount. At the head of each rail is a power status panel that indicates which Macs are or (or off). Down the center of the rail is a cable management channel that keeps all of your cabling organized on the rack. The end result is a clean, organized, yet easily accessible rack mount for your Mac minis.

Topics: Servers, Apple, Hardware

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  • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

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    dee.jay
  • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

    Apple offerings for the enterprise/business are too weak compared with companies like Microsoft or Red Hat. Even products like the iPhone and iPad are being deploy with applications from vendors like Good, because of lack of management features. Or enable securiy features via Exchange. Let's hope in a future they get better in that.
    dvm
  • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

    How many times does Apple need to say that the aren't interested in the Enterprise? They are currently content to have their products (iPhones, iPads) come into the enterprise in people's backpacks.

    You have to remember: Apple and Steve Jobs have a very specific vision for the company and the products. They aren't generally open to deviating from that vision.

    Apple also doesn't show a lot of concern for their partners. You get the product. "Do with it what you will, but don't expect us to go out on a limb for you." Refer to their lack of participation in MacWorld.
    Marc Jellinek
    • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

      @Marc Jellinek Yes they really are a company that doesnt care about its users. And doesn't care about what anyone wants for it. They just make money, and sit on it. They don't put it back into the world, they don't spend it on R&D, they just sit on it. Making them a greedy and useless company.
      Jimster480
      • Get over yourself!

        @Jimster480 "they really are a company that doesnt care about its users." What utter horse$hit! As a consumer electronics company the "customer" (i.e. consumer) is their only focus. Why do you think they make all that money? It's because they concentrate on products people will want to buy, which they do in huge numbers. How could you care [i]more[/i] about your customers? You can say you don't like Apple products, that they're over-priced, or even highly derivative, but you can't say that Apple is a company that doesn't care about the consumer, it's their [i]]raison d'etre[/i].
        matthew_maurice
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

        @Jimster480
        What you just described is Microsoft. Being the monopoly vendor they couldn?t care less about the customer, charge monopoly rents, and generally abuse their customers.
        Rick_K
      • ROTFLMAO!!!

        @Jimster480

        LOL.. That was so retarded that it was hysterical!!! Apple did the R&D for the products that have led the market for the past 5 years and you claim they just "sit" on their money... According to you, if they wasted it on stupid research, it would somehow mean that they care??? LOL That is sooo stupid... LOL... I think it shows that Apple cares about both customers and investors. Kinda the exact opposite of Microsoft.
        i8thecat
      • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

        @Jimster480

        I disagree with the comment "... that doesn't care about its users." Apple cares deeply for their customers, as Apple defines their customers. If you fall outside of that definition (ie: Enterprise customers), they don't care... because they don't consider you a customer.

        Right now, Apple seems very focused on their users, as Apple defines "user": the content consumer. Their focus seems to be on the user of the iPhone, iPad and iPod.
        Marc Jellinek
  • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

    32 Cores in 5U isn't that impressive when you consider the fact that you can build 1U 2x 6-core AMD or Xeons... At that density you have 60 cores in 5u.
    snoop0x7b
  • RIP xServe

    At my last job, I deployed numerous (dozens?) xServes and xServe RAID systems. And I never had any issues with any of them. Like Apple's desktop systems, "they just worked." And they didn't require the management effort of our Windows, Linux and Solaris servers. Plus, they were fast, had built-in redundancy, and they even looked cool. Typical Apple products: a bit pricier than the competition, but worth it in the long run.

    I find it odd that now that Apple is the largest it has ever been that it would abandon the enterprise market. It seems to me that this would be the time to go on the offensive and make a push into the enterprise -- perhaps with server tools that will allow for easier management of iPads and iPhones, in addition to all the desktop stuff.

    Hopefully the announcement won't mean the end of OS X Server. Unfortunately, without good 1U hardware to deploy it on, enterprises aren't likely to use OS X Server on many systems -- they just won't be space efficient.

    BTW, the Mini Rac is interesting, but it seems to me that they could have mounted them horizontally with three on the front and three on the back and achieved higher density. Assuming you have access to the rear of the rack (and who doesn't?), you could have six per 1u or 30 per 5u, for a total 60 processor cores. That's pretty dense -- half again as much as five 8-core xServes (40 cores)! They're practically like horizontal blade servers!

    Of course, a Mac Mini Server is a pretty decent machine for a small-business server -- veterinary or dentist offices, file servers for publishers, etc. Hopefully they'll continue on.
    jscott69
    • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

      @jscott69

      "I find it odd that now that Apple is the largest it has ever been that it would abandon the enterprise market. It seems to me that this would be the time to go on the offensive and make a push into the enterprise "

      This is exactly the time to remain focused and not let success in one market segment (consumer electronics) go to Apple's head.

      When I think of these types of situations, I think of a quote from the M*A*S*H character Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester: "I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, then I move on".

      Apple had a long-term plan for bringing the iPad to market. I've read that the original idea was for the iPad and they prepared the market for it by bringing the iPod to market, then the iPhone to market... and only after they were successful, bringing the iPad to market.

      One has to wonder... did Apple's plans stop there? I don't think they did.
      Marc Jellinek
  • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

    The big integrators will likely fill the void. Apple wants to be the face of computing that users see. That's where the biggest margin is. They cannot compete in the price/performance arena of the server market.
    mschafer555
    • Apple

      good,Lately I've got the same trouble, it's like the case when you need to complete something however you can not because your health problem won't allow you. But from the moment I tested that cure, I was normal. Go for it! http://www.phenobestin.com/t-adipex.aspx
      bobdoskaen4
  • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

    David Morgenstern,<br><br>"People come an knock on [Apple's] door, and [Apple] says theyre not interested. But this strategy is working! The Mac is being accepted in the enterprise in spite of Apples strategy of neglect."<br><br>This is actually not the whole story, or even an accurate picture. On the opening day of Covent Garden Mac Store in London, I was invited up to the 4th floor where the enterprise suite is. Obviously I can't disclose the nature of the discussions I had with Apple's enterprise staff there, but I can assure you they are serious about the enterprise.<br><br>I suspect Apple's server offerings are going to the cloud. Why no thoughts on this?
    Graham Ellison
    • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

      @Graham Ellison
      No serious business wants their data living in someone else's cloud.
      bregalad
    • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

      @Graham Ellison "Going to the cloud" is not a solution 100% of the time, especially not going to the public cloud. It's a great an elegant solution in many cases, but let's face it, in many cases you NEED real iron, and guess what underlies this magical cloud? I'll give you a hint, it isn't air, it isn't water, it's servers.
      snoop0x7b
  • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

    I think Apple started to notice that people were beginning to virtualize the servers, running multiple server instances on each Xserve. OSX Server runs quite happily on VMWare on Intel based servers by HP, IBM, Sun, Etc. I'm guessing Apple was feeling that server sales were going to diminish due to virtualization and couldn't justify maintaining 24x7 support infrastructure that a server line requires. I wish they had given enterprise customers a transition road map to Parallels or VMWare.
    Andr&Atilde;&copy;s
    • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

      @Andr??s,
      "OSX Server runs quite happily on VMWare on Intel based servers by HP, IBM, Sun, Etc."

      Maybe that's possible, but the Apple EULA for Mac OS X Server don't allow that. Here is a line from the EULA,

      "You agree not to install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Applebranded computer, or to enable others to do so."

      http://images.apple.com/legal/sla/docs/macosx_snowleopard.pdf

      I don't think that a genuine business/enterprise will run Mac OS X Server in an illegal way. If you want to run Mac OS X Server, you only have two options, Mac Mini Server or a Mac Pro. An when you compare those two offering vs HP and IBM servers, it's easy to see why enterprises and business don't have Mac OS X Server.
      dvm
  • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

    Must admit, my experience with the XServe was limited to one box, but that experience was anything but happy. It was a poor network OS with horribly limited user rights and groups. Apple's server admin never came anywhere close to what was available in Novell's eDirectory or MS Active Directory. It was a huge step backwards. When we retired that Xserve it was a happy day.
    boomchuck1
    • RE: Apple in the enterprise: Living without Xserve

      @boomchuck1

      I think WGM blows away AD. Have you used it since 10.5 or 10.6 OS X Server? Easier to use and just as much functionality as AD.
      cashxx