Apple has brought its customary attention to detail, and ease of use features to its first rack mount server, Xserve, launched in Cupertino today.
But although racks are synonymous with ISPs and service providers, Apple will not be changing its emission statement to collar co-lo's. The target markets for Xserve remain education, scientific computing and media.
"We are humble, we know we have a lot to learn," said Jobs, sounding as humble as he possible could.
Xserve is 1U rack available in single or dual 1Ghz G4 configurations, with room for four ATA-100 drives, with 60GB and 120GB as the options. Each drive is hot swappable. There is a Gigabit Ethernet port built into the motherboard, and three slots, with one taken up by an addition Gigabit adaptor. It's the first Apple system to use DDR SDRAM, at 266Mhz. The base models with 256MB and 512Mb of memory are priced at $2999 and $3999 respectively.
But Apple made as much of OS X Server's unlimited user license at the launch today. With a 25-user client license for a Windows server costing $3295, the price of an entry level Wintel rack can double.
Jobs and Schiller defended the choice of ATA-RAID. Apple didn't invent SCSI - that's popularly credited to ex-IBMer Larry Boucher, but wiser counsels [see below] say this is mistaken. But Apple for a long time championed the interface, a standard feature of all Macs until fairly recently.
Apple's strongest appeal to potential customers is that as a vertically integrated player, the buck stops in Cupertino. It characterized the Wintel and Lintel world as characterized by finger pointing and a lack of accountability. The reality is actually a little more fuzzy: Apple outsources technical support and services in many countries… and so does Dell. But it's quite correct to point out that like Sun, it controls both the hardware and the OS. And it should make the most of it.
Asked by Henry Norr if Apple might face a challenge in persuading CIOs that it was a credible server vendor - after years of short-lived initiatives, Jobs replied that "I look at that as a dream while [Apple] was in a coma."
Apple focussed on some slick, headless manageability tools, and promised that SMP performance would improve. Demonstrations of WebObjects and QuickTime Streaming Server followed. Oracle and Hewlett Packard were hauled on to announce a native Oracle 9i and OpenView clients, respectively.
And Apple trailed a dedicated storage product Xserve RAID: a dual 2Gigabit Fibre Channel array with room for 14 bays in a 3U rack. That'll be out later in the year, the server next month.
So although Apple is acquiring the know-how to become a part of backoffice IT infrastructure, it's wisely not going in all guns blazing.
Oh, and it runs Jagwyre, when Jagwyre server is ready to ship.®
Bootnote: A friendly note from Bennett C Baker corrects us:-
"The original SCSI specification was a lineal descendent of SASI, the Shugart Associates Standard Interface, created by one Al Shugart, who was the founder of Shugart Associates (makers of floppy disk drives) and then Seagate. So while Mr. Boucher may have been a contributor to the specification (as I'm sure were many others), I believe Mr. Shugart should properly be credited as the "inventer" of SCSI."
Bennett himself invented LIM EMS, which got us all nostalgic for a moment.