MacStadium, most likely the best known and most successful of the Mac Mini datacenter hosting services, is expanding their offering this week by adding the Mac Pro to their server hardware list. This should make their offerings even more appealing to the Mac-centric users looking for hosted services, but whether it will allow them to compete successfully for enterprise customers who are server hardware agnostic is another question.
There is no question that the Mac Pro makes an awesome development platform for building applications, 3D modeling, or professional grade video projects. Its core Intel Xeon E5 hardware can be found in enterprise class server products from other top-of-the-line vendors.
MacStadium has built custom enclosures for the cylindrical servers and a rack that can house 160 units, so they will be able to get reasonable server densities. By making use of stalwarts of the datacenter works such as VMware server virtualization, NetApp ASN storage, Cisco networking, and other name brand support and infrastructure pieces, they can assuage any potential customer concerns about the enterprise worthiness of their offerings.
But the key to significant success will be getting out of the core market; they need to show advantages to the customer who does not already have a bias towards Apple products. And the subset of people who would even consider Apple for enterprise-class compute workloads is a very small one to start with.
And therein lies the rub. If I’m an Apple developer, even at the corporate level, who needs to build apps on a budget, the ability to use MacStadium’s contract-less offering will let me prototype and build apps without the upfront investment in the Mac Pro hardware. If I need to do 3D modeling, rendering or create projects on the fly, I’m probably going to need a desktop that can handle that, so we are back to needing that Mac Pro on the desk, rather than in their datacenter. So this narrows the specialty market a bit more.
But for MacStadium to convince the average buyer of hosted computing services that there will be a significant advantage to using their Mac Pro-equipped data center to deliver on day-to-day business services may well be a classic case of answering a question that no one will ever ask. With the other 99 percent of the service provider world focusing on making the backend invisible to the customer, can a service that depends on their customer understanding the potential advantages of their backend hardware ever be more than a niche player?