Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

Summary: If Apple is willing to turn its back on the XServe, will it also turn its back on OS X Server, which, surprisingly, represents a high-value, easy to use tool for schools?

SHARE:

Apple announced today that it would no longer be producing its XServe rack-mounted server products after January 31st, 2011. It provided detailed recommendations (PDF) for customers looking to either transition from XServes or deploy new OS X Server hardware. However, one has to wonder if this approach signals the beginning of the end for OS X Server itself as the company continues to ramp up its consumer/pro-sumer product portfolio.

So why do I care? Regular readers will know that I love my MacBook Pro, but I'm not entirely convinced of the Mac value proposition in education. The XServe, though, and the server OS that it ran (OS X Server) were somewhat unique in that they provided high-performance directory, communications, and collaboration software in an easy-to-use package that, as servers and their licensing tend to go (at least on the Windows side of the proverbial server room), were relatively inexpensive.

In fact, managing a network with the built-in tools on OS X Server is remarkably easy. Managing the Macs on the network is similarly straight-forward, with a typically Mac-ish user interface. Especially in K-12, where onsite tech expertise or direct support is often difficult to find and fund, OS X Server represents a platform that a relatively savvy teacher can use to keep a network and all of the deployed Mac clients running smoothly. File sharing, directory services, and user policies are all a few clicks away.

At the same time, that same savvy teacher could easily run wikis, websites, mail, and podcast capture/publishing for the school, again with built-in graphical tools.

While its true that both Windows and Linux offer powerful and robust solutions for schools, all of which can include graphical tools, OS X Server is particularly intuitive and the licensing (unlimited clients - period) certainly can't be matched by the variety of Windows CALs. Obviously Linux licensing is a piece of cake (free - period), client management and media interactivity just aren't as easy. Not by a long shot.

Apple has not said that it is abandoning OS X Server, only the rack-mounted hardware. Users can still purchase Snow Leopard Server pre-installed on Mac Pros (for high-performance needs) or Mac Minis (for small workgroups or specific tasks like file sharing or wiki hosting). However, shoehorning a server OS onto non-server hardware that needs to reside under a desk or on shelves in a datacenter hardly strikes me as a vote of confidence in Apple's server business.

Rather, it says that Apple is a consumer company whose products will probably make their way into schools and businesses because consumers love them. Perhaps those big datacenters that Apple is building out will end up hosting cloud-based versions of OS X Server or providing similar services from the cloud. However, OS X Server is one of the highest value tools for schools that Apple currently offers and its ease of use and client management helps offset cost concerns associated with those Mac clients that people love so much.

Here's hoping that the death of XServe doesn't mean the death of OS X Server. I'm not taking any bets, though. Unfortunately, over and over, Apple has demonstrated that it can crank out great, popular products that teachers and students (and countless other consumers) fawn over, but rarely provides the education-centric solutions on which it built its reputation. Hey, Steve! If you're listening, any chance you could make sure OS X Server lives on? And not just in Mac Minis? Thanks.

Topics: Servers, Apple, Operating Systems, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

80 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

    I'm fine with them abandoning the hardware. The internal RAID 5 card always had battery problems and I've already switched 2 of our main file servers from an Xserve to a Pro. Its better in most respects. More hard drives, easier to service, but they have to sit vertical in the rack. I've added multiple eSATA cards for external RAIDS and have a slot or two let over. The major thing they need to address in the hardware monitor working with non Xserve hardware. They need to keep the OS X server software going because there's just so much unbelievable power built into it. Seriously, there's features that Apple isn't even allowed to tell you about, but if you do your research you'll find that is has just as much power or more than even a Windows Domain has. Sure, it has simple tools to make things easier for non IT to set up and use, but there are components that aren't visible unless you know what to start turning on. The command line extends the power even farther. Its a real shame IT isn't delving more into its hidden power. Without question, they need to keep it!

    That being said, our X-san has been chugging along quite nicely for two years still running two Xserves as the PMDC and BMDC.
    I12BPhil
    • HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

      @I12BPhil
      [i]Seriously, there's features that Apple isn't even allowed to tell you about, but if you do your research you'll find that is has just as much power or more than even a Windows Domain has.[/i]

      Wow, thanks for the joke of the day!!!

      [i]Our product is [b]so[/b] much better than the competition's but we've signed an NDA with ourselves so we can't tell you about how much better our product is until you buy it.[/i]

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      NonZealot
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @NonZealot I thought it was just trolling at first, but you sincerely, honestly, really have no idea what you're talking about, do you?!<br><br>Let me give you an example: In the workgroup manager, I can open a file that has a list of high end operations that isn't in any Apple manual, but allows control over a network profile's home folder, synchronization, file permissions on the client machine's own files, cache redirection and folder redirection, hidden files and folders, media connections and their permissions including write and read to media permission and much more. None of which is in any standard documentation. If you call Apple tech support and ask for help with those functions you'll pay a premium support fee. However you can find Apple user groups who know all about these commands, scripts, and how to use them<br><br>Its the same thing Microsoft support does for their higher end functions.<br><br>You really are a complete moron. I'd bet you don't even know that on a mac you can drag a folder into the command line and it will paste in the complete path.
        I12BPhil
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        Trolling again Zealot. You must not have a day job!
        beau27
      • @Phil: Oh this just gets better!

        [i]None of which is in any standard documentation.[/i]

        So what you are saying is that Apple's documentation sucks but that if you were to call Apple support, they'll gladly charge you premium support fees in order to tell you things that they should have put into the manual?

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        NonZealot
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @NonZealot No, NoClue. Read my post to the other guy who chimed in. You'll never still get it, though, because you have never ever used it.
        I12BPhil
    • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

      @I12BPhil
      I'm replying to the reply you wrote to nonzealot.

      First things first, there is not a chance in hell that Apple's open directory is more functional than Windows AD. (every single feature you mentioned has an equivalent in the Windows world)

      Second and probably the most important, have you ever thought to ask why in the world Apple is extorting you to get relatively straightforward information on a product you already paid for?

      I can understand when Linux distributors charge you for support, they're not really charging you for the software. But why am I paying the mac tax and paying for the software if the depth of documentation they provide is equivalent to me poking around the software for 15 minutes. If I wanted to rely on forums and a billion support calls I would be running a linux distro, not paying a supposed enterprise vendor.

      Have you ever checked out Microsoft's technet documentation library. It is available for everybody to scrutinize. Almost every thing you wanted to know and did not want to know is readily available for you to see.

      My position is simple, people should not have to pay extra (for advanced support) or rely on unreliable user forums to understand how to use these supposedly built in functions of the software. Until Apple gets out of this mindset, they should not play in the enterprise arena. Good riddance.
      gotpaint32
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @gotpaint32 Well, then you're another person in the Windows world who has no experience with Apple, just like NoClue. For the record, I handle both and have for 13+ years. I know the Widows AD system and I know OD. Do they do similar things? Yes. Are there some things in AD that aren't in OD? Yes. Are there things in OD that are not in AD? Absolutely!<br><br>Apple's stance, and you can confirm this by talking with them, is that there are features in the OS that are put in there for Apple to use and test, some left over from BSD and NeXT, but some features that are their own that are not official released features. They do not offer support for features that are not official release features.
        I12BPhil
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @gotpaint32 Wow! I tried to post a response that told you exactly what and why and it got flagged. Way to shut down an argument you have no chance of winning.
        I12BPhil
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @I12BPhil<br><br>I have actually had the displeasure of working with mac servers. And I have spoken with them numerous time regarding various issues. Their support essentially boils down to this. If you have their basic support level any troubleshooting or configuration that digs into the console is essentially a la carte and cash out of ur pocket.<br><br>I also find it incredible that in one paragraph you are extolling the virtues of the product (with its oh so many abilities) then in another start drawing lines in the sand by separating official released features vs unofficial features. I want to run OSX not a BSD remnant that happens to be on OSX Server. <br><br>OSX Server is a COTS product and it should act like one. Windows has tons of unsupported hacks, hell anyone with any modicum of coding ability can pretty much do anything they want via command line on a windows box using powershell but I wouldn't consider aftermarket "hacking" to be a product feature. <br><br>Please don't confuse the issue. Look I get it you are an awesome mac admin and thats good for you. But I'm not buying you, I'm buying the osx software so either its a feature or its not. You can't say the product has a billion features but then have the manufacture say it only support ten. When I check out of the apple store I expect ALL my features to be supported, end of story. <br><br>Like many that post here, I value my livelihood and choose to avoid running systems in my charge in unsupported grey areas because if stuff hits the fan, then its on me, not on apple. What you do is your business.


        BTW: I didn't flag your argument, I would actually welcome it. Though it is insulting that you think I would resort to such tactics. Clearly you need an attitude adjustment.
        gotpaint32
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @gotpaint32

        Since Mac OS X is based on UNIX it is enterprise ready by definition. Anyone interested in open solutions which are easy to set up will see the value of OS X Server. The documentation is available to anyone with access to the internet.

        Mac OS X Server is great solution. Your wishing riddance to something that isn't a problem and which you obviously know nothing about reveals your ignorance and fear.
        ElJo
      • actually...

        @gotpaint32
        ... you are not paying for the software (unlike for windows server). mac os x server comes free with your apple hardware (free as in linux free with no cost for the server os or the clients, which are unlimited). so apple does support the os of course and you have to pay for extended support but there are a lot of hidden features that you have to get to on your own (lots of them legacy next os features, not very well documented and not officially supported).

        but anyone paying happily thousands of dollares for the windows server and client tax is probably lost on any value proposition.
        banned from zdnet
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @gotpaint32
        >>>If I wanted to rely on forums and a billion support calls I would be running a linux distro,<<<

        our experiences obviously differ. Sometimes I will get stuck running Linux, but it usually requires that one question needs to be answered to break the logjam. I have rarely gotten stuck, though, but when I have I had a solution in hand within a couple of hours after posting to usenet. Linux has every bit the power of Xserve, and some would say more. Both are good products and both have their proponents.
        richdave
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @gotpaint32 Very true. If you cannot provide proper documentation on your software then you shouldn't be claiming its something it isn't. Apple doesn't seem to understand this, as their whole business model is based on telling people that their products are something that they aren't. I guess they do the same in enterprise. You pay more for the same stuff, then pay more again just to use it. Thats why I run linux servers, there is plenty of documentation out there if you know how to search for it. The software is open so we can modify it as we need and once you know it, you can do everything yourself without support.
        Jimster480
        • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

          @banned on zdnet ROFL nice troll. It comes free with your super overpriced hardware? O man thats a really sick deal. You know windows is free too right? Like Linux Free. It comes for FREE on any computer you buy other than a MAC.
          Jimster480
    • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

      @I12BPhil
      sorry mate but there is no use of comparing mac OX server or Xserve to a Windows Server Environment or linux because " if you want to compare it to older systems NT i might say yes you have point"
      reasons:

      1. Xserve / OS X Server lacks of enterprise features and small business features , basically i cant use a OSX server in my organization because nothing will work on it .. not mentioning migrating plans to OSX sucks.

      2. Xserver / OS X Server lacks of IT Administrative tools , in windows and linux you will find a lot of tools by Microsoft and / or thousands of companies

      3. Xserve / OS Server for sure doesn't support most of the enterprise infrastructures so you are limited to apples system requirements , while most of the hardware and hardware technology works pretty awesome with windows and linux and bsd's

      4.mixed networks ( linux windows bsd clients ) works okay between Xserve and other OSes but its trashy, a freebsd with no gui can do more in a mixed network that the Xserve

      5. OSX server will never be a good product for SB and ENT unless if the OS X desktops share jumps really really high at this point you will see a different OSX server that might beat windows server and linux and bsd

      im not saying its not a good product " no its good for its purpose " but its another apple toy to add it to OSX and ipods and ipads family to hook up all these stuff together in classy way.
      alshawwa-20045078549136243675845149874891
      • At the slight risk of you having a clue...

        1. What are these features you speak of?
        2. What tools are you talking about?
        3. What do you mean by enterprise infrastructure?
        4. What does trashy mean?
        5. What are you babbling about?
        zkiwi
      • IT doofus

        @zkiwi

        don't be so harsh on alshawwa@. just another microsoft certificated IT doofus who knows nothing about other solutions (only the thousands of dollares redmond tax server products) that we have come to know and love here on zdnet.
        banned from zdnet
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @alshawwa@... agree totally and can say I am across all the platforms....
        too many amateurs commenting on stuff here way above there real level of comprehension for my liking...
        I am sick of MAC zealots pushing the MAC line just as much as I am sick of the MS zealots pushing the MS line....and throw in Linux etc. here too...
        The reality is...understand the real requirements and promote the right tool for the right application.....
        rbance67
      • RE: Apple XServe is gone - Is OS X Server next?

        @alshawwa@... i dont see OSX server ever beating linux and BSD. OSX is based on BSD. Linux is developed by many large companies for the sole purpose of being a server. it is basically a toy to hookup other toys. But OSX server is great for making hackintoshes. Although why you would want one, I cant say.
        Jimster480