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Apple Announces Dual Processor Rackmount Servers

Apple Announces Dual Processor Rackmount Servers

by , 1:30 PM EDT, May 14th, 2002

Apple has released its first rackmounted servers ever. The company has released a new series of G4-based servers called Xserve at an event in Cupertino today. Hinted at during last week's World Wide Developer Conference by Steve Jobs, the new servers come in a 1U enclosure (meaning it takes up one space in a rack), and offer single and dual processors and up to 2 GB of DDR SDRAM.

The new units start at US$2999 (single GHz G4 processor), with a US$3999 option available too (dual GHz processors). Xserve offers built-in UPS support, several self-monitoring abilities, and an unlimited client license for Mac OS X Server. It includes built-in Gigabit Ethernet, three FireWire ports, two USB ports, a built-in VGA card that supports headless booting, an optional 4X AGP port for other video cards, and a variety of server software. From Apple:

Apple® today introduced Xserve(TM), a powerful 1U rack-mount server designed with Apple's legendary ease-of-use for groundbreakingly simple set up and remote management. Designed from the ground up as the perfect complement to Apple's UNIX-based Mac® OS X Server software, Xserve is ideal for business and education customers.

Xserve provides exceptional performance in a compact 1U rack-mount server. Its dual 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processors each have 2MB of Double Data Rate (DDR) L3 cache, and Xserve is the first 1U server to use DDR SDRAM memory with up to 2GB capacity. Xserve offers best-in-class storage, with up to 480GB on four hot-plug ATA/100 drives, and best-in-class networking with standard dual Gigabit Ethernet ports. Xserve includes 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.

"Xserve is the result of listening to our customers," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "Xserve is super easy to set up, and is easily integrated into existing networks. Plus, with its unlimited-user software license at no extra cost, Xserve is a tremendously cost effective server with real UNIX under the hood."

Xserve is perfect for I/O intensive applications such as digital video, high-resolution digital imagery and large scientific datasets. With capacity and performance rivaling much more expensive servers from Dell, HP, IBM and Sun, Xserve delivers high-speed networking, 15 gigaflops of computational power and nearly a half terabyte of hot-plug storage. With four independent ATA/100 drive channels, Xserve offers nearly double the performance of other 1U servers that utilize more expensive Ultra3 SCSI drives.

Xserve features several new capabilities designed to make server set up and remote management easier than ever before. Server Admin(TM), a powerful new services monitoring and remote management tool, allows administrators to easily set up and manage all key Mac OS X Server network services remotely. Server Monitor(TM), a powerful new hardware monitoring tool, allows system administrators to remotely monitor one or many servers, get detailed subsystem views instantly, produce reports and receive system notification alerts via text capable email, pager, cell phones or PDAs.

Apple is offering a choice of world-class services and support programs including 4-hour onsite response, 24x7 technical support, AppleCare Service Parts Kits and the AppleCare Professional SupportLine and Tools program.

Additional Xserve features include:

  • single or dual 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processors;
  • 2MB DDR L3 cache per processor;
  • three PCI slots, two of which are 64-bit, 66 MHz PCI slots for high performance I/O-the fastest ever in a Mac®;
  • up to 2GB of DDR high-performance memory running at 266 MHz-the first DDR main memory in a Mac;
  • software RAID mirroring for protection of important data and RAID striping for additional performance;
  • a VGA graphics card that supports headless booting and enables easy connectivity to industry standard cross-platform devices;
  • an optional AGP 4X graphics card to connect displays, keyboards and a mouse for "Mac-in-a-rack" solutions;
  • three 400Mbps FireWire® ports with two accessible on the back panel and one on the front panel for quick access;
  • two USB ports, one DB-9 serial console port and an optional Ultra3 SCSI card for connecting to external storage and backup devices;
  • an optional fiber Gigabit Ethernet adapter;
  • Mac OS X Server software featuring QuickTime® Streaming Server, WebObjects and the latest advancements from the Open Source community such as Apache, Samba, PHP, MySQL and Tomcat; and
  • Native protocol support for AFP over TCP/IP, SMB/CIFS, FTP and NFS enables easy integration into existing Mac, UNIX or Windows networks.

Pricing & Availability

Xserve will come in two standard configurations, or can be fully customized to meet specific customer requirements. The two standard configurations are:

  • single 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processor, 256MB DDR RAM, 60GB ATA/100 Apple Drive Module, dual Gigabit Ethernet, CD-ROM and Mac OS X Server with unlimited clients for a suggested list price of $2,999 (US); and
  • dual 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processors, 512MB DDR RAM, 60GB ATA/100 Apple Drive Module, dual Gigabit Ethernet, CD-ROM and Mac OS X Server with unlimited clients for a suggested list price of $3,999 (US).

Apple is accepting orders for Xserve now, and the product is expected to ship in June. As of this writing, Apple has not yet added an Xserve information page at its Web site. The Apple Store has also not yet added information on the new units, though Apple does say it will be accepting orders "now." Expect that later today.

The Mac Observer Spin:

This is not a revolutionary server, but it is very big step forward for Mac networking. Large design firms, movie studios, schools, publishing houses, large corporations with an organized Mac presence, and many more Mac environments are going to really like Xserve. It will also likely turn some heads in the IT world too, as more and more IT professionals get excited about Mac OS X's Unix underpinnings. It's not going to sweep the Mac platform into the Fortune 500, but it's a significant foot in the door towards that possibility.

Xserve is not the best rackmount server on the market, but it's a very solid offering for Apple's first foray into this space. There are some features sorely missing, redundant power supplies being high on that list, but the performance it offers for the cost is a very good deal. In particular, the unlimited client license is a direct swipe at Microsoft's absurd licensing approach that makes it expensive use Windows for large-scale operations.

That said, Windows is a much more mature platform for serving, and there are a lot of professional level tools on the market for it. This is not true for Mac OS X, though its BSD roots mean that some of the fantastic open source products can easily make their way over to X. With a product such as Xserve on the market, that eventuality becomes that much more likely.

All in all, we pronounce this product a winner for the markets at which it is aimed.

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