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Apple Hardware

Apple To Discontinue Xserve 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the bad-day-for-X-names dept.
Toe, The writes "Apple has announced that they are discontinuing their line of 1u rack-mount servers. With their usual understated style, the announcement comes in the form of a box on their website and a transition guide (PDF) to their low-end Mac mini server or their now-more-powerful-than-Xserve Mac Pro server. Attitudes about the Xserve have ranged from considering it a token nod to enterprise to an underpowered wimp to a tremendous value. Apparently, the migration to Intel processors removed some of the value of clustering Xserves, leaving them somewhat overpriced compared to other, more traditional offerings. The odd thing is that Apple clearly has shown they have the capacity for enterprise, but rarely the will to take it on. So, does the discontinuation of their rack-mount mean they have abandoned enterprise for their post-PC offerings, or are they simply acknowledging that their products aren't gaining traction in the data center? Or do they have something else up their sleeve for next year?"
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Apple To Discontinue Xserve

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @10:55AM (#34136080)

    Apple sees the writing on the wall: the mainframe era is back, with Linux as the server and iOS devices like iPhone/iPad as the client. Non-standard servers running UNIX variants other than Linux are irrelevant. Although Apple struggled with 5% share for years it now wants to dominate the thin client market. My guess is that Apple will eventually abandon MacOS completely -- while interesting as an operating system, it is increasingly irrelevant, as is its more popular Windows cousin.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:00AM (#34136136)

    seems like an obvious question.

  • by benwiggy (1262536) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:13AM (#34136340)
    People often forget that Macs are heavily used in publishing, advertising, graphic design. I work at a company that must have 500 Macs.

    All our Macs have network user profiles, which are stored on ... a Windows box. And it's a complete pain in the arse. Loads of problems, all blamed on "Active Directory"

    We used to used Xserves to host the accounts, and everything worked fine, but the IT boys only know Windows, so the Xserves are sitting gathering dust.

    Considering that the graphics and print business basically kept Apple in business in the dark years, this is a crappy way of supporting Mac in the workplace.

    What with the FisherPrice look of 10.7, I'm really worried about the direction that Apple's taking.

  • So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StoneyMahoney (1488261) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:17AM (#34136404)

    The Xserve has been largely redundant since Apple discontinued the Xraid. When you pair them up they make great file servers, the publishing company I used to work for loved them (yup, that's right, there *are* people for whom Apple servers make sense, go home haters).

    Seeing as how there's nothing you can do with an Xserve that you can't do with a Mac Pro, the only difference is the rackmounting. Considering the way forward is Xsan, that's completely optional now even if all your storage is rackmounted. The SAN controller can be on the other side of the building as long as your fibre reaches it.

    Nice as it was, goodbye redundant product. You'll be missed, but not for long.

  • by anti-human 1 (911677) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:28AM (#34136548) Journal
    The "I will probably get modded down for this" cognitive dissonance ploy only works if you're logged in.
  • by swb (14022) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:29AM (#34136558)

    I worked with a client this summer that was dumping an install of about 20 X-Serves for a Windows based server environment. They have a substantial Mac user base and it seemed like the right idea at the time, but the experience was pretty awful.

    They said the directory server never worked right and there were a bunch of other glitches, some of them I think hardware-based. It was a big deployment and they even had Apple involvement but it never worked right.

  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:35AM (#34136656)

    It's not the 'ooo shiny' products that everyone knows Apple for, but their Server OS is quite good. As are some of their clustering capabilities.

    After trying to setup a linux cluster, XGrid [wikipedia.org] is nothing short of Magic. It's a check box in a system control panel. You can let anyone use a computer or password protect it. Buy 1+ Macs. Check "Allow for use on XGrid" (and even set to only use when it's been idle). Anytime you compile something in XCode, all other available Macs will be used. No setting up which servers to use in a .distcc file.

    Their Server OS [apple.com] is also pretty polished. I know the hard core command line junkies think that everything should be done with vi/emacs and only configured from there. But not everyone wanting to run a server has that expertise. If I had to suggest a server to a friend for a small home business. I'd suggest the MacMini Server. Mail, Web, Jabber, OS Updates, Time Machine, etc.

    I suggest checking it out (not sure if they have the server OS setup in any Apple Store) before knocking it.

  • Sad, but expected (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dFaust (546790) on Friday November 05, 2010 @11:54AM (#34137008)

    This is typical of post-iPhone Apple, unfortunately. If you look at pre-iPhone apple, they had their hands in a number of places and were making some cool stuff. This is one example, but look at their various other pro and/or creative tools. They had some small but interesting ones such as Motion and Aperature. They also had tools like Final Cut Pro, which swept the NLE world, and Shake, which when they bought Nothing Real (creators of Shake) was taking over the high-end compositing world and was used in many of the big movies that needed heavy visual effects. They also bought Silicon Grail, makers of Chalice and RAYZ, niche high-end compositing apps that were moving up in the world.

    And then they realized they could be FAR more profitable selling phones and without fanfare have slowly but surely left all of their little niche markets behind. They convinced companies to switch their infrastructure over to Macs to use their amazing tools, and then just leave them high and dry. I get that it makes business sense, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as I'm sure it does to many of the companies that dumped huge amounts of money into their products.

  • Re:Fraggin Great (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Neil_Brown (1568845) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:02PM (#34137168) Homepage

    I really did like Time Machine for ease of use, but I will find something for Linux, or create my own based around rsync.

    Having had problems sorting a Time Machine replacement out under Linux, I installed FreeNAS on a spare box - just add and configure the drives, select the option to run a Time Machine server, and you're away - I was very impressed with the ease of use.

  • by cHiphead (17854) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:08PM (#34137280)

    Ad agencies with a lot of Mac infrastructure disagree. OS X server is a stable beast on the Xserve hardware. This is a giant fuck you to companies that went with a Mac OS X infrastructure (Open Directory, XSan, AFP and SMB file services on a single machine). 8+ cores and 16GB ram and its a hell of a machine to use for production AND even run several VMs, without any real performance degradation.

    I actually liked the overpriced son of a bitch xserve.

  • by teeker (623861) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:25PM (#34137526)
    If you worked in an organization where you hand to manage hundreds of desktop Macs it would dawn on you. I know places like that are not exactly everywhere, but they do exist...I know because I work at one. After our current Xserves reach the end of their useful life, there will be absolutely no enterprise class hardware that can be used for management and deployment of desktops. I'm sorry, but we will not be putting Minis on rack shelves for services (Open Directory, for example) that need to be available 24x7. The lack of redundant power supplies, lights out management and hot swappable drives is just not acceptable in an enterprise datacenter. I also cannot give up 6u per Mac Pro just to get the same 8-core speed that is currently available in a 1u box while I'm giving up those availability features. It's just not going to happen.

    We're already pondering what life is going to be like with Windows-only desktops. It's possible Apple is going to pull off some announcement about OSX server availability on VMWare/HyperV or something (which would be acceptable for larger environments I guess) but I can't plan ahead for what they *might* announce. Frankly, it doesn't give me confidence in the future of OSX server in general. Without large deployments, people won't be needing things like Open Directory, so that could easily be dropped at some point, for example.

    They are effectively removing themselves from consideration in large environments. Just a week or two ago, there were rumors they were going to make a bigger play in the enterprise space and I was anxious to see what they had in the pipeline. Now, suddenly we're looking at abandoning OSX as a platform almost completely at hundreds of desktops. We were about to put in an order for 50+ iMacs for the second or third time this year alone, but now those plans are on hold until we can get a new long term plan together. As a result, it is definitely going to be a factor in future iPad/iPhone deployment (which has been pretty positive thus far).

    I never doubted Apple was evil, I didn't know they were dumb too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:29PM (#34137604)

    I've been administering XServes for nearly five years now and I can say that OS X Server and the XServes it runs on are, far and away, the worst combination of "server" OS and hardware I've ever had the misfortune to use.

    The first XServe we had was a dual 1.33GHz G4. It ran 10.4. First, the hardware...The rack rails were horrible. The top of the 1U box stayed with the rails in the rack. There was only one power supply and there was no option for hot-swap/redundant PSUs. Cable management? Ha...You got a clip to keep the power cord in the PSU. That's it. The damned thing didn't even have link LEDs. The only redeeming hardware feature were the somewhat-decent drive sleds. The motherboard finally died in the thing a few years ago.

    The second XServe, our current unit, is a single 2.8GHz quad-core Xeon machine. It...Doesn't suck from a hardware point of view. The rack rails don't make me cry. There are link LEDs. I don't remember if there's cable-management, but I want to say no. There are redundant, hot-swap PSUs available. So, to sum up, it's on par feature-wise with 1U rack boxes from Dell/IBM from five years ago in every way except for the CPU. Good going, Apple.

    OS X Server? No, thanks. 10.5 has been moderately solid, once we figured out the Spotlight issue that was causing the box to require a hard power-cycle once a month. Of course, every time I start to get comfortable with OS X Server Apple comes along and shoots themselves in the foot, usually with something stupid like breaking CPAN, breaking their own packaged webmail (Squirrelmail) by not paying attention to the PHP updates they're shipping, breaking their own ClamAV in such a way that it actually crashes the machine at random and shipping an update that causes serialnumberd to lock you out of your own box due the mistaken notion that you're running two instances of OS X Server if your OS X Server machine has two interfaces on the same subnet.

    Let's not forget the 10.6 AFP bugs, the 10.4 AFP bug that would let me reliably crash the XServe if I tried to mount an AFP share a second time after the first mount request didn't succeed, and so on.

    I suppose you're right...They are capable of making server products. They just refuse to. Either they don't eat their own dog food internally, their RE/QA guys are asleep at the switch or I'm just terribly unlucky, but for me I'll never willingly choose to use OS X Server.

    Apple throwing in the towel on the XServe has been something I've expected for a while. I can count on one hand the number of people actually running XServes with an Apple OS in production, and I work on a major university campus. The resources required to compete for even a small slice of the enterprise pie just aren't there for Apple. They're too busy playing with phones and mp3 players. I don't blame them for doing so, but I am happy to see them truly, finally, exit the real enterprise arena.

  • by blincoln (592401) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:43PM (#34137848) Homepage Journal

    That my friend is one of the greatest problems with Mac/Linux adoption, IT boys are affraid of loosing "power" and are not willing to learn anything new.

    You say "tomato", I say "the stubborn, tiny minority of Mac users are unwilling to learn how to use the exact same software (Photoshop) on a PC that they use on their Macs".

    I used to work in a Windows engineering department. I supported 1000+ servers and numerous enterprise-level applications. It was a full-time job. Can you guess why I didn't want to double my workload by supporting Mac users as well? It wasn't because I don't like learning new things. It was because given a fixed number of people in my department, the needs of the many (the Windows user base of about 30,000 people) outweighed the needs of the few (the 200 or so Mac users and their ~10 servers). It didn't help that the Mac users expected their issues to be given top priority, even when it was just a handful of graphic designers being affected compared to hundreds or thousands of business users.

    Furthermore, Apple always seems to go out of their way to "interoperate" in the most idiotic way imaginable. For example, OS X supports dynamic DNS registration. That should make interoperating with Windows-based DNS easy, right? Wrong! Because not only will OS X dynamically register itself, it will do things like (before registering itself in DNS) reverse-lookup the IP it gets from DHCP, and silently rename the computer it's running on to the entry it finds, regardless of whether that's a good idea or not.

    Or how about how when accessing Windows fileshares, OS X will happily allow users to give filesystem objects names that end in spaces, making them nearly impossible to work with, rename, or delete on Windows clients. I partly blame MS for that, because SMB shouldn't allow it in the first place if it's going to cause issues for Windows clients, but OS X is the only client OS I know of that allows it.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:51PM (#34138020)

    This has always, always been the Apple way. For better AND worse, Apple is a "We do what we want," kind of company. They set their own path, decide what they think the market REALLY wants, and so on. This has good sides, it leads to them trying new things that other companies wouldn't and ignoring some conventional wisdom. That has lead to some extremely popular products in the consumer electronics space. However the bad side is that they do not consider the needs of their partners, and their clients, in enterprise. They'll change their mind on how shit is done, not tell you first, not give you a migration strategy, and that is that.

    Two good somewhat recent examples would be the move to Intel hardware and the discontinuation of the 64-bit Carbon API. In the case of the Intel transition, everything was kept heavily under wraps. They admitted after it was done that they'd been working on it for years, even using OS-X on Intel in demonstrations, however it was all kept very hush hush. Suddenly PPC was no longer available and it was all Intel. So if you were heavily invested in PPC hardware, well fuck you. In the case of 64-bit Carbon they said it'd be supported, provided beta APIs and so on, and companies like Adobe were using it. Then they suddenly said "Nah, changed our mind, you have to use Cocoa," leaving companies like Adobe in a lurch.

    Apple has never taken enterprise support seriously, their mentality is just not aligned with it. They want to be able to change everything, do what they think is cool at the time and so on. It has worked wonderfully for them in the consumer electronics space, but that is NOT what is needed in the enterprise world.

    Well, perhaps businesses will understand that, and understand that going all Mac has problems because of that. Apple may pay lip service to the business market, but it isn't what they are good at doing. They can and will change their minds on how things are done on no notice and leave you to deal with the results.

  • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:51PM (#34138022) Journal

    For what it's worth, I work in a large enterprise (3000+ locations nationwide) where I am currently working with Apple Strategic Accounts to create a Mac OS X standard that plugs into our existing management infrastructure.

    Apple does not recommend using Open Directory on anything above a small-to-medium sized business. They have whitepapers written and extensive support available for extending the Active Directory schema to support MCX policy.

    We do have some Xserves in some places, but only a few of them. The big loss here is that there will be no dual-power supply solution for Xsan now, without going Windows Server or Linux running StorNext as your MDCs.

    Having a software-controlled SAN isn't of much use if all it takes is a power supply to crap out in order to limit availability.

  • Uh Oh... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarcQuadra (129430) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:00PM (#34138212)

    I think I have an idea where this might be heading...

    You can fit 4 Mac Mini servers into 1U now, they just need a tray that diverts the heat from them. That's a killer opportunity right there. You get much more oomph from four Mac Minis than you do from an XServe.

    http://www.apple.com/macmini/specs.html [apple.com], yup, you could definitely fit these one-high, and side-by-side into a 1U tray, with room for connectors and venting. I think trays might even be deep enough to hold six of them.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:31PM (#34138734)

    Support is. Apple's support is very built around consumers. Their attitude for most things is "Bring it in to the store." Fine, that works for a desktop perhaps, or particularly for an MP3 player. That does not work for a server. Servers need fast parts shipping. You need to be able to e-mail in and say "A drive has failed in this server," and have a new drive, already in its caddy, FedEx'd to you by the next morning.

    Dell offers that. A server breaks, they send the parts fast. They can also have contracts with support places so they can send a tech if needed. Here it is IBM, so if you need someone to handle the replacement a guy from IBM will come out with all the parts and take care of it. However for servers normally what you want are just the parts sent fast, and they do that real well.

    So price aside, there is the issue of support. You don't have to just match Dell's price, you have to match their support, particularly for servers. It isn't just a matter of having support, it is a matter of getting it fast. If a desktop is down, life goes on. If a server is down, it can be critical. Also disks are one of those things that can go from no problem to big problem in a hurry. If a RAID drops a disk, there is no problem so long as the replacement is there before another one drops.

    Also the whole concept of a "Refresh cycle" is kinda silly. You don't have to shuffle things around to change price. It is not at all hard to have a system where based on your costs, prices are updated on a day-by-day basis so people always get a good price, by whatever your company has chosen that to mean. You don't have to wait for any kind of cycle at Dell, their prices change all the time.

  • by Ilyon (1150115) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:34PM (#34139742)
    Or do they have something else up their sleeve for next year?"

    Yes, they have something else up their sleeve. Did anybody notice Apple's "enterprise services agreement" with Unisys? http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Mobile-and-Wireless/Apple-Unisys-Agree-to-Enterprise-Services-Deal-Report-788654/ [eweek.com] Did anybody notice the 54% drop in Unisys's profits, along with a drop in server sales? http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Unisys-3Q-profit-sinks-54-pct-apf-3818156357.html?x=0&.v=1 [yahoo.com] So, Unisys is an enterprise computing company looking for a way to save its server business. Apple is consumer electronics company with enterprise ambitions, enterprise software, but no enterprise distribution network. Apple just announced it is dropping its server hardware line, a little over a week after announcing the deal with Unisys. I know it is fashionable to dismiss Apple's enterprise computing ambitions. I was at an Apple Developer's seminar a couple years ago where they were showing off the new version (then) of MacOS X Server. The entire focus of that seminar was on how Apple was adding features to MacOS X Server (and even licensing things from Microsoft) to make OS X Server more suitable for the enterprise. I predict Unisys will start offering MacOS X Server on Unisys server hardware soon. Apple may even end up buying Unisys.

  • Re:Uh Oh... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 05, 2010 @03:18PM (#34140354) Journal
    Oh, given that OSX server represents a relatively small engineering cost over straight OSX, I wouldn't expect its demise.

    It should hang on just fine doing directory and CMS work in small Mac shops, or doing centralized policy control and AD authentication passthrough in little Mac niches of larger entities.

    Aside from that, though, they would be appear to be conceding that they don't have the chops to go up against the remaining vertically integrated UNIX guys(IBM, Oracle, parts of HP), and that the margins in trying to outperform legions of homogeneous Linux boxes running exactly the same intel silicon and wearing cheaper cases since nobody ever looks anyway are nearly nonexistent.

    Back when they were G5 based, there were at least some modestly exotic problems for which they were much faster than intel/AMD and much cheaper than IBM's full POWER stuff; but today's Xserves are just classy looking 1u intel servers. Other than the classy looking, that is about the most commodified segment outside of crappy cube-drone boxes.

    It makes you wonder what they are running at their own datacenters... I'm assuming that they aren't exactly a windows shop; but the idea of an actual datacenter made of Mac Pros sitting on 2 to a 12U shelf is hilarious in the extreme...
  • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Friday November 05, 2010 @05:39PM (#34142152)

    There are also rack mounting systems that take 2 mac mini's in a 1U [mk1manufacturing.com] space.

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