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Apple Businesses Hardware

Xserve Powers iTunes Music Store 146

Nexum writes "MacCentral has the scoop on the entire iTunes Music Store being powered by Apple Xserves. Is this the first really big implementation of Apple's server hardware? I have to admit, that even being a big Apple fan I didn't think that the Xserve hardware would be powerful enough for the severe pounding that the iTMS must have been getting. This seems like great news for Apple being able to show that they can be a real serious force in the server arena, to which they are practically a total newcomer to." I wouldn't see any reason to doubt that hardware and Mac OS X software could handle iTMS. I mean, it's heavyweight hardware, and Unix software. Still, good to see actual examples of Xserve sites in the wild.
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Xserve Powers iTunes Music Store

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  • it says they use the xserve on the itunes site thats it. how is this a scoop ?
  • by Shenkerian ( 577120 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @12:09AM (#6112093)
    Imagine the fallout if people found out Apple was using, say, IIS on 2000 Server. It would make the sales pitch for their server solutions a little tougher.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    On the back, an article about companies like Microsoft and Apple that "eat their own dog food".

    Though this isn't exactly news, what else would they use???

    Xserves are great, I know folks (like my boss) who didn't even consider them but once they read the specs, their eyes open, their head nods up and down slowly, and their mouth says "wow, not bad. pretty good in fact"..
    • They used to run on a farm of Sun machines, actually (granted that was before they had an "Industrial Strength UNIX" operating system).
    • Though this isn't exactly news, what else would they use???

      Given their connection to FreeBSD, they might use FreeBSD and Apache, arguing that the X-Serve is aimed as SMEs. The fact that they have enough confidence in it to use it to power something that generates this amount of traffic is a vote of confidence in their own product. Mind you, MS run some of their sites on Windows 2003 beta (presumably with multiple redundancy for the inevitable crashes).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @12:29AM (#6112193)
    Find me another server that can hold 720 gig in 1U and survive a million hits a day.

    These things are awesome! Our IT guy is a part timer because our Xserves are so reliable.
    • Yes! Awesome! We aren't needed anymore! Thanks for putting us out of jobs Apple.
    • some scheme by music []

      "Well, we were getting all these, well, I don't know what they were. These weird screens with scary messages, and those were just the complaint emails. Then we got an Xserve, and it all changed."

      [Apple logo]

      "I'm AC, and I just fired my IT guy."

    • Find me another server that can hold 720 gig in 1U and survive a million hits a day.

      A million hits a day is less than 12 hits/sec. If Apple's Xserves use Apache, they aren't going to scale nearly as well as Zeus. It's all about the web server, not the hardware.
      • I'd much rather run a busy ecommerce site under Zeus on a Solaris Sparc system than on Apache. Apache is the best all round web server IYAM (even cost aside), but Zeus is really quick. As for Solaris - it's not a great desktop platform (as a desktop OS, it's slower than Rain Main) but there is entirely no competition hardware wise in the high end server market.

        It wouldn't be cost effective for any company other than Apple to use Xserver's in this way, I see the market as a good one for those who have alti
        • > It wouldn't be cost effective for any company other than Apple to use Xserver's in this way,

          This is the way cost is always analyzed, and it irks me. If you have a bunch of boxes that require 10% as much administration, and 10% as much training to administrate, and cost $2000 each, compared to the other ones which cost $1500 each, then clearly the $1500 ones are less expensive.

          I'm not saying that xServes DO, mind you. But your analysis of the situation is hopelessly naive... as is just about everyon
          • Actually, I'm including all the factors you've aluded to. I'm not being naive. I'm quoting from experience, I maintain clustered environments for a living (and I personally own x86, Sun Solaris and Apple Power PC systems to boot).

            Your massively over over estimating the additional ease of use gained from using an xserve via any other Unix platform (or even Windows NT). It's easier, but there isn't much in it unless you've very little Unix experience.

            I agree that xserve's are easier to administrate, I like
  • by chrispy666 ( 519278 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @12:35AM (#6112217)
    ...and not simply a technical prowess.

    I mean, Apple bashers can say all they want, but the Xserves are great machines, and the architecture proves to be scalable and reliable. Sure, they are not running at 20THz, but hell they will cope with the load of such heavy duty app like the music store.
    This shows Apple dedication towards *reliability*.

    I dunno if I'd like to have OS X Server running on such nice boxes, but it's Apple, it works together nicely.

    P.S. : I'm a switcher, that doesn't mean I only swear by Apple products. I just try to give credits to a company that clearly tried its best to come up with comprehensive solutions.
    • Keep in mind that the PowerPC architecture can do quite a bit more per clock tick than x86 hardware, so a 1.33 GHz PowerPC can probably perform about the same as at least a 2 GHz Pentium 4. Of course, this would vary quite a bit depending on the task at hand; only benchmarks will show the real numbers. Anyway, the PowerPC(s) in the Xserve have a good amount of raw computing power, and this will only improve as Apple moves to PPC64 chips.

      It seems to me that Apple is looking to move back to the older conce

      • They may have a problem with people installing Linux on the Xserves and then not paying for OS X Server software or upgrades; then again, their chosen market may not even consider this. Again, only time will tell.

        I seriously doubt this would be an issue. Anyone who goes out of their way to get an Xserve, with the other options out there, is probably looking for the Apple hardware/OS combo. I doubt there will be very many Linux/*BSD/what have you Xserves out there. (At least not until you start seeing Xser

  • How do Xserves measure up in price to comparable x86 Windows servers? I know Apple workstations (I don't want to call them PCs and get in trouble!) like PowerMacs or iMacs cost more than most Dells or Gateways, are Apple's Xserves in a similar position to Compaq, HP, etc, servers?
    • iMacs and iBooks compare very favourably with equally specced PCs.

      Sure, if you compare them to dirt cheap basic gateway and hp rubbish then they'll be more expensive, but compare them to HP and Dell's midrange stuff and they are about the same - remember that Apple starts at midrange and goes up. There is no bargain basement cheap version with Apple.
      • I concur--

        Having recently (Jan. 2002) purchased a TiBook (my first Mac ever), I did extensive price comparisons of laptops. The best choices I could find were the Sony Vaio, IBM Thinkpad, and Titanium Powerbook G4. For comparable systems, the Mac was actually cheapest. And by the way, at the time Sony didn't even make a Vaio that had all the features I was looking for.

        As an aside, I've loved using my Powerbook for the past year-and-a-half, and have had minimal problems. My most recent uptime has bee

        • Try reparing your disk permissions. There's a lot of voodoo involved in updating the system and problems like this often occur.

          Put in your Jag CD and boot holding the C key. From the CD you can repair the permissions on the System partition (which you can't do from Disk Utility when OS X is running - only on other drives/partitions).

          You could also fsck the disk.

          Boot in single user mode (hold command+s at boot time) and type "fsck -y" from the prompt and let it do its work. If it says it fixed errors, run
    • by kageryu255 ( 674465 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @02:30AM (#6112666)
      Like jo_ham said, you have to be very careful comparing Macs & Dell/Gateway/HP/etc. products. Once you spec out features to as close a level as possible, the Macs actually do come out ahead on most (not all, but definitely most) fronts.. especially with recent price slashes on the laptops and consumer lines.

      As far as the XServe goes, if you break it down per-gigabyte or per-gigaflop, the prices compare very favorably. Check out the website ( [] ) for the XServe RAID box for Apple's quoted comparisons if you like.

      And plus, just look at all those blinkenlights!! I've seen both an XServe + XServe Raid playing an HDTV file on a 23" Cinema display, and a small rack of XServes chugging happily away on.. well, something.. and they're quite sparkly. Mmmm, blinkenlights..
    • The hardware is similar to Dell's, but the over all cost is cheaper because Xserve comes with unlimited Mac OS X Server licences while MS would charge a lot for that.

      Another huge benifit of Xserve is that it also comes free with a world-class application server called WebObjects which NeXT used to sell for $50k! There are also lots of other nice sysadm tools such as Apple Remote Desktop. There is no way that Lintel or Wintel servers can compete with Xserve if the truth is known.
  • Hardly a newcomer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @01:26AM (#6112414)
    Back in 1996, Apple and Tower Records got together to try this new thing called 'e-business', where people used this other new thing, the internet, to spend money and buy things using networked computers.

    Apple was only interested in selling iron, and had no interest in the retail side of things, much less selling CD's, books and video tapes.

    Apple had suits as reps, and since Tower's IT department didn't even have email, the 'Pulse' magazine arm of Tower became the cheerleading squad for Russ (owner of Tower Records) and the gang.

    Apple 'donated' three AIX equipped Shiners (200MHz), and Tower gathered a group to meld MUSE's song data and Tower's credit card backend into a website. belonged to some company back east, and they turned down a $10k offer for the domain, so was it. A small group of highly talented software guys in the Bay Area were hired to code it all together*, and the growing pains began.

    Fast forward to today, and we have ITMS on Xserve and Tower running the latest ASP shopping cart.

    Like they say, it's the singer, not the song.

    *That group was bought up by MS in a short time, and the e-shop app was shelved...never to be seen again. If you can't compete, kill the competition and bury the body in the backyard....but that's another thread.
    • apple has bad luck with join ventures like that... before AOL, apple and (is it compuserve?) were getting together to make this home internet service... apple backed out at the last minute, and shortly after the launch, this home internet system became AOL, the largest(by a HUGE margin) ISP in the world.
      • Was that (the apple ISP) called eWorld?
    • I used to work for "Russ and the gang" in Sacto. I'm honestly suprised that they're even on the net, with all the chaos and inter-departmental fighting going on there. It took 6 months and a lot of begging/presentations just to upgrade the art dept. to 2-year old Macs. Kudos to Apple for even trying to enter that hell.
  • by Knife_Edge ( 582068 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @01:50AM (#6112489)
    Apple's .Mac mail servers are XServes, too, running OS X Server. Apple is eating their own dogfood. Or forging the headers to make themselves look good... I don't even care as long as the mail gets through.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Received: from ([]) by (Netscape Messaging Server 4.15) with ESMTP id for ; Tue, 27 May 2003 19:00:22 -0700

      Unless Xserves run Netscape Messaging Server now...
      • Xserves are definitely at some point in the receiving chain for me, but not the final resting place of the mail as you have pointed out. My mistake.

        Received: from ([]) by (Netscape Messaging Server 4.15) with ESMTP id XXXXXXXXX for X; Tue, 3 Jun 2003 13:18:29 -0700

        Received: from ( []) by (Xserve/MantshX 2.0) with ESMTP id XXXXXXXX for X; Tue, 3 Jun 2003 13:18:28 -0700 (PDT)
        • Apple uses sendmail running on Xserv's for their inbound and outbound relays.

          They use NMS 4.15 for the message stores and for the MMPs. (Mail Multiplexors, or IMAP proxies)

          They are also currently migrating to SunONE Messaging Server 5.2 for all the message stores.

          Both the Netscape and SunONE Servers are running on Sun Hardware.
  • you would think that apple is now using much of the technology that they produce. this is the useful demonstration that companies want to see before buying the equipment. the website, the apple store, and the itunes music store are just the thing to show off the capabilities of apple products. for example: wired, cnet, and cnn report that apple sold one million songs in the first week--sooner or later, buyer researchers learn that it was all done with xserve.
  • An Xserve is an _entry level_ server. It's only advantages over other 1U servers in that market segment are a) lots of internal storage (although that point is rendered mostly worthless by the lack of hardware RAID) and b) OS X. Both of which are fairly questionable outside of a narrow chunk of the market. In nearly every other way, Xserves are blown away by the competition. A similarly specced Dell 1750 (or even the superceded 1650) is thousands (AU$) cheaper, more expandable, has more and better hardw
    • No RAID? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by littleghoti ( 637230 )
      I may be missing something, but isn't this [] hardware RAID?
      • Er, yes, but it's hardly relevant to comparing the *internal* storage capabilities of the Xserve and other 1U servers, is it ? An X-RAID works just as well plugged into a PC or Sun as it does plugged into an Xserve.
        • Except of course that Apple is probably using both XServe 1U kit and XServe RAID 3U kit to run the iTunes Music Store... so faulting Apple for lack of RAID when they have (and probably) use RAID for iTMS isn't really fair.

          Apple designs two systems for two problems (one for compute, network, and load and one for storage, reliability, and capacity) with one OS and set of software to tie the two.
          • [...] so faulting Apple for lack of RAID when they have (and probably) use RAID for iTMS isn't really fair.

            I wasn't faulting them for not having it for the iTMS, I was faulting them for not having it as an option for everyone else. Not everyone can afford an X-RAID (they're resonably priced for what they are, but they're still expensive).

            As I said, lots of internal space is one of the only real advantages an Xserve has over the competition - but the near inability to efficiently utilise that space signif

    • by phatsharpie ( 674132 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @08:38AM (#6113910)
      >A similarly specced Dell 1750 (or even the superceded
      >1650) is thousands (AU$) cheaper

      Actually, I just had to price out the different configurations of different servers for my class, and the price difference is actually not that much. See below, they are both gathered from both company's online stores...

      Apple XServe (

      * 1 x 1.33GHz PowerPC G4 processor
      * 1 GB RAM
      * 3 x 60GB HDD (180 GB total)
      * AU$7,398.01

      Dell PowerEdge 1750 ( l_rkopt_1_rkopt_1750.htm)

      * 1 x 2.40GHz Intel Xeon Processor
      * 1 GB RAM
      * 3 x 73GB HDD (219 GB total)
      * AU$6,436.10

      The XServe is definitely more expensive. However, keep in mind that the Dell comes with no operating system, while the XServe comes with OS X Server with unlimited clients (all the goodies of OS X like deployment license for WebObjects, etc.). So if you want a "GUI" server software, you would have to pony up for unlimited client version of Windows to compare (OUCH!). But if you just plan to use BSD or Linux on it, Dell is definitely cheaper.

      • As I said, the advantage to the Xserve is in its internal storage (more and cheaper). Take that away (as you would for, say, a compute node or a server with the local disks only used for the OS) and the price disparity quickly becomes much larger. For example, comparing an Xserve and 1750 with dual CPUs and two hard disks each and a gigabyte of RAM (a reasonable configuration for a fileserver attached to some form of network storage) and the prices are about $6300 vs $8800. Bear in mind here the 1750 als
    • by MasonMcD ( 104041 ) <masonmcd AT mac DOT com> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @12:17PM (#6115875) Homepage
      If Apple can survive to the point when most new homes are going to be wired and have a server in the closet (and it will happen), Apple will be the one to bring ubiquitous computing to the home.
  • Anyone know of any benchmarks of I/O for X-RAID? I would guess that it's not as good as a full-fiber-to-the-disk SCSI solution like EMC/Clariion sells, but I wonder how close it is.

    (From someone who -- with the annual maintenance cost for my current SANs -- could buy and throw out a fully-populated X-RAID box every quarter and still be ahead...)

    • by wchin ( 6284 )
      I recently did some benchmarks on the Xserve RAID. Performance is quite good, but I had only limited access and I couldn't change the configuration. With a RAID 5 array of 7 drives on a single controller, I got about 92 mb/sec sustained throughput on multi-gigabyte file sizes. Remember that most I/O benchmarks I've seen are easily fooled by cache and therefore can quote some ridiculous numbers. That compares quite favorably to its competition - I get about 75mb/sec in equivalent testing on a Mylex FFX Fibre
    • It is absolutely blisteringly fast for sequential writes. I set up an Xserve RAID at Level 50 (2 7 disk sets and striped 'em from within Windows 2000). I ran IOmeter from a Windows box, and saw these numbers (with 10 disk clients): * 25,000 IOPS with a 512 byte block size * 310 MB/sec *sustained* transfer rates for 4K blocks. It's decent for random IO with a mix of reads and writes. But if you're gonna stream video or use it for nearline backup, DAMN it's fast.
      • Ooo, ooo, gotta ask....

        W2K server? How is it physically connected? Through a fiber channel switch?

        I assume you have to manage the array through an attached x-serve, right? Like carve out disks. Does it does LUN masking?

        I have Linux and W2K hosts connected up to my EMC Clariion SAN through a pair of brocade switches. Would love to add an X-raid rack into that mix! :)

  • <sarcasm>I am so shocked to hear that Apple is using their own products for their own services. I mean any "proper" company will use Linux for any and all solutions dealing with computers. Come on what were they thinking!</sarcasm>
    I don't think anyone should be surprised by this. Apple is not going to use PCs who is their main competitor. So their only available options are Their products (which they get as an affordable price and have easy access to support updates etc.) or IBM/Sun solution (
  • Just read a book about Digital, which had a note I found interesting / amusing: When Apple was a young company, they bought DEC computers for company record-keeping / infrastructure. DEC no longer exists per se, but it would be an interesting turnaround if at least some workgroup of former DEC employees at HPaq runs *their* infrastructure on an Apple server ;)


  • by Hollinger ( 16202 ) <> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:59AM (#6114477) Homepage Journal
    I still think the thing should be called the iRaq, err... iRac.
  • Hi! I am thinking of setting up a small Xserve cluster for Life Science calculations. Can somebody help me with some suggestions? I barely know what an head node is.
  • FreeBSD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by psyconaut ( 228947 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @11:49AM (#6115581)
    Okay, if this was a farm of FreeBSD machines (a la Yahoo!), then nobody at all would be surprised...even if the machines weren't multi-CPU Xeons.

    If they were other UNIX vendors' machines that had RISC CPUs at a "paltry" ~1Ghz...again, nobody would be surprised because "they're UNIX machines and more reliable and they're 'optmized' and they 'don't run a GUI'".

    But because their Macs people seem surprised. That's a Mach kernel with some of the best elements of 4.4BSD and FreeBSD/NetBSD grafted on there for God's sake. Yes, it does have a very slick GUI available, but we're also talking about the SERVER VERSION of OS X.

    Someone also mumbled about lack of RAID -- what's XServer RAID, then? Yes, it runs ATA drives...but look at the interesting architecture, you've got each drive on a SEPARATE controller. That, IMHO, negates a lot of issues that ATA has in one single swoop.

    Anyhoo, kudos to Apple...iTunes music store seems pretty slick on many levels. And it's good to see them eating their own dog food :-)

  • by afantee ( 562443 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @01:27PM (#6116499)
    I am surprised that people should have any doubt that Xserve and Mac OS X can handle iTMS.

    Apple has been using its own hardware and software to power including Apple Online Store, QuickTime movie trailer and the .mac Web service for years now.

    The QuickTime movie trailer site is the most popular on the Web, and QuickTime Player has been downloaded over 100 mln times in the last year or so. The storage and bandwidth requirement for downloading movie trailers are much higher than that for music.

    To paraphrase Jobs iTMS presentation, Apple is capable of moving "ocean of bits" for video downloading, so music is really a no-brainer. In fact, a single Xerve RAID (2.5 TB) can store the 200000 songs many times over.

    Apple online store is one of the best and biggest e-commerce site with annual sale in $billions.

    A recent survey shows that is the #1 hardware site on the Web with 3.7 mln unique users a week, while is a distant second with 2.5 mln.

    They also use WebObjects (the original enterprise application server from NeXT) for heavy lifting, which is capable of talking to multiple database systems and load ballancing. WebObjects is one of the best kept Apple secrets, and perhaps the only application server on the market that has the visual tool to automatically generate Java code for database programming.
  • can be found in a little brochure Apple just sent us here at Harvard:

    Lincoln (NE) Public School District
    UNC Chapel Hill
    Minnesota Wild

    They seem to be in some big time use at each of these places. No details really, just a little blurb and some cool pics.
  • Didn't I point this out already: d=5840334
  • Apple's been in the server biz for a while, it's just that they went on somewhat of a "sabbatical" because they had other priorities (i.e. staying afloat, in the late 1990's). It was the Apple Network Server series, featuring IBM's AIX. Apple made some pretty good-looking servers for the day. Indeed, it's great to see that Apple's made a comeback in this vital arena - all hail Mac OS X Server!

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard