12-01-2010 – The news that Apple is discontinuing the rack-mounted Xserve line rippled through Mac shops. Many IT managers shrugged and said they would keep running the existing Xservers until they die. Others, at smaller shops, will try to make do with a Mac Pro.
What’s missing from the discussion is what happens to the Mac OS X Server operating system. Because if the server OS goes away, the Mac server concept dies a fairly quick death in the installed base.
Mac OS X Server comes with the Xserve and is available on the consumer Mac Pro and Mac Mini platforms. Mac OS X Server provides tightly integrated and easy to administer services to Mac clients (and does an OK job with Windows too for some things).
Apple has steadily moved software engineers onto the iOS team, working on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch versions for products that are flying off the shelves to consumers. But in spite of Apple’s phenomenal sales growth over the past several years, the number of software engineers has increased modestly. The impact is fairly obvious if under-reported. The Snow Leopard version of Mac OS X released in June 2009 was essentially a service pack, a modest feature update to Leopard, launched more than three years ago in October 2007. The Lion release is not until next year. So the reassignment of software engineers to iOS has already slowed down Mac OS X major releases to — the speed of Microsoft Windows major releases. Earlier in the decade, Apple was on an annual OS X update cycle.
The cognitive dissonance to cutting off Apple servers is that Apple is investing sales resources to go after enterprise business, especially point-of-sale using Apple’s iPod Touch devices as hand-held clients. Those iPods need to communicate with a back-room server at the store. But now we know that won’t be a $2,500 Apple Xserve. Apple’s market strategy continues to avoid a strong push into enterprise information technology in spite of high interest in its smart devices. Go figure.
With Apple clearly rationing Mac OS X engineering resources and the Xserver on product sunset, I would take a bet that Apple quietly drops new features for OS X Server. Yes, I expect a Lion version of OS X Server, but it won’t be more than desktop OS X plus the existing utilities. But OS X Server is definitely at an evolutionary dead end. Caveat Emptor.
[Update] However, the most surprising revelation from Apple is that Mac OS X Server will no longer be a separate product. Mac OS X Lion will include all the necessary server bits and easy configuration to set up any Mac as a server. It includes all the usual server services, such as user and group management, push notifications, file sharing, calendaring, mail, contacts, chat, Time Machine, VPN, web, and wiki services. A new “Profile Manager” will enable easier set up and management of Mac OS X and iOS devices, integrating with existing directory services. Lion’s WebDAV services will automatically allow iPad users to share files remotely, and Lion will also include an updated version of Wiki Server.
[Update] By putting the utilities and services for Xserve into Mac OS X Lion, expected later this year, Apple can exit the commodity server business while allowing customers to use any Mac to provide server-class services. This move also sets up Apple to rather neatly manage the marriage of iOS and OS X, especially the backup and management of multiple iOS devices such as a small business (or large household) may use. That’s clever.
Source: Circuit Breaker – CNET News.