At long last an Apple server

[MAY 21, 2002] - Apple Computer jumped into the server market with both feet last week, with the introduction of a hardware-software combo aimed at the enterprise. Apple's offering, Xserve, is a rack-mounted, dual-processor server that the desktop computer maker presented with uncharacteristic modesty, and high hopes that it will begin the flow of a new revenue stream.

Xserve puts Apple in direct competition with IBM, Sun and Dell for the low-end Unix server market.

"This is our first offering," CEO Steve Jobs told reporters and analysts gathered at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters for the product launch. "We're approaching this market very humbly ... we know we have a lot to learn ... but we think our first product is a credible entry."

The new Mac OS X-powered servers sport dual 1-GHz PowerPC G4 processors, each with 2MB of Double Data Rate (DDR) L3 cache. They come with up to 2GB of DDR SDRAM, up to 480GB of storage, and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Xserve ships with an unlimited user license to Mac OS X Server software, offering users "a perfect combination for file/print service, video streaming, database applications, computational clustering and Web and mail serving." During his presentation, Jobs emphasized the Unix parentage of the Mac OS, noting that the server has "real Unix under the hood," clearly reaching for a connection with a dominant operating system in this market.

"Xserve is the result of listening to our customers," Jobs said. "[It] is super easy to set up, and is easily integrated into existing networks."

Xserve features several new capabilities, including Server Admin, a services monitoring and remote management tool that allows administrators to set up and manage key network services remotely, and Server Monitor, a hardware-monitoring tool for remote server monitoring.

Apple priced its new offering to give established server makers a run for their money. Pricing for the Xserve ranges from $2,999 to $6,500, and Jobs told reporters that custom configurations could be ordered from Apple's Web site.

At least a few buyers are already impressed. Reps from Oracle, Clear Channel Worldwide, Genetech and OpenView joined Jobs and company for the product launch. Oracle VP Michael Rocha called the new "a superior platform for Oracle9i Database." He said that Xserve "will deliver enterprise-class solutions to our joint customers and create new opportunities for both companies."

Apple began taking orders for the Xserve this month, and the machines are scheduled to ship in June. Xserve will ship with the current version of Mac OS X Server. Current customers will have to pay to upgrade to the server configuration of the next major Mac OS X release, code-named Jaguar and scheduled to ship at the end of the summer, Jobs said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].