Do IT pros demand Apple's new Xserve?

I posted this morning that Apple has debuted its new Xserve with Intel Nehalem processors, but I didn't give the full rundown of the product. So here's the who, what, why and how.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

I posted this morning that Apple has debuted its new Xserve with Intel Nehalem processors, but I didn't give the full rundown of the product. So here's the who, what, why and how.

Apple today announced an updated Xserve that it says "delivers up to twice the performance of the previous system." It does this primarly thanks to Intel Xeon processors with Nehalem architecture.

The Who and What

The Xserve is a 1U rack-optimized unit that Apple says "delivers up to an 89 percent improvement in performance per watt." The main takeaways about the update are the following:

  • The new quad-core Intel Xeon "Nehalem" processors (one or two 2.26GHz, 2.66GHz or 2.93GHz);
  • Greener (recyclable materials, reduced toxins) and more efficient (89% average efficiency power supply);
  • Storage: Three 3.5-in. drive bays supporting up to 3TB of storage (including a 128 GB SSD option that doesn't take up a bay), not to mention 3-24GB of RAM;
  • Unlimited client-license for Mac OS X server (Leopard 10.5).
  • Starts at $2,999 (quad-core) and $3,599 (8-core).

To get a sense of the price ceiling on these things, a fully configured/maxed-out unit (Two 2.93GHz CPUs, 24 GB RAM, 128GB SSD, Xserve RAID card, three 1TB serial ATA ADM 7,200 RPM HDDs, a dual-channel 4Gb Fibre Channel card in the first x16 PCI Express 2.0 expansion slot and a Quad-channel 4Gb Fibre Channel card in the second; dual 750W power supply) will run you $14,649.

Save your pennies.

(More on the new Xserve after the jump)

The Why and How

Apple says the integrated memory controller with three channels of 1066 MHz DDR3 ECC memory attached to the Nehalem processors delivers up to 2.4 times the memory bandwidth while cutting memory latency up to 40 percent. That means a 19 percent reduction in idle power use, Apple says.

On the environmental front that Apple's been pushing recently, the Xerve uses PVC-free internal cables and components, contains no brominated flame retardants and features a power supply with an average energy efficiency of 89 percent.

A few more specs:

  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet on-board;
  • Bonjour-enabled Lights-Out Management processor and Server Monitor Software;
  • Internal graphics with Mini DisplayPort output;
  • Two FireWire® 800 and three USB 2.0 ports.

What's Been Said

Previous Xserve models were met with measured reaction. PC Magazine's Oliver Rist had this to say in January 2008:

"[Xserves] make viable general-purpose SMB file servers, especially with the option designed to guide non-server-savvy folks through installation via a wizard-style process. And for small business IT needs, the systems have all the basic pieces, including a mail server, calendar server, and even a new blog and wiki server for collaboration. That puts the Xserve squarely across the table from the Microsoft Small Business Server, both in functionality and ease of use. And you get a bonus: no additional client license costs or limits."

And way back in 2006, InfoWorld's Tom Yager said Xserve was "an entry-priced server that meets the requirements of mid-level server buyers":

"The sum of Xserve's flaws is overwhelmed by the system's unique leading-edge, user and administrator-centric engineering. Xserve is far better than the commodity server that the Intel x86 market expects. But what really blasts Apple's competition is OS X Server. The present Tiger (10.4) release is more than a match for much more expensive commercial Linux, and far more capable out of the box than Windows 2003 Server."

And in March 2008, according to Macworld's Andrew T. Laurence, the sixth-generation Xserve was "a superbly modern 1U server with powerful options for storage and remote access":

"Benchmarks tell a number of tales, but is the Xserve fast when the rubber meets my particular road? The new Xserve’s AFP performance is so fast that I could not muster enough client computers to discover its performance ceiling."

And here at ZDNet, we've had our fair share of Xserve discussion:

Does It Matter?

Just this past March, InfoWorld's Mel Beckman wrote about how and why IT pros are demanding Macs. His basis: "A consistent platform, strong cloud support, and a great server" make the Xserve appeal to IT professionals.

How will the new 2009 Xserve stack up? Do you demand Apple's new Xserve? You tell me -- in TalkBack.

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