Apple is set to unveil its first dedicated rack-mount server Tuesday, as it attempts to flesh out its line of server hardware. Few details have been revealed about the product ahead of its debut. Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave a brief preview of the server during his keynote address last week at the Worldwide Developer Conference in California. The hardware is 2U (3.5 inches) tall and will run a server version of Mac OS X. A photograph of the product shown briefly at Apple's conference suggested a black-and-silver design in keeping with the company's penchant for stylish hardware. Server provider
Long anticipated by Mac enthusiasts, analysts this week say they expect the server to be an important addition to Apple's product line for such tasks as file serving, print serving, email serving and Web hosting. Gordon Haff, an analyst with New Hampshire-based Illuminata, says: "This is predominately a complementary product for the markets where Apple plays. If you're Apple, you don't really want someone bringing a Windows server in if you've got the desktop environment sewn up. "It will do pretty much all the functions that small servers are used for." The size and shape of rack-mounted servers provides a convenient way for storing large numbers of them in a small space. Space issues can be particularly acute at schools, some analysts say, traditionally an Apple stronghold. On the rack
Haff says: "The trend has been more and more toward rack-mount servers. They are more and more common even in small- and medium-sized businesses." One thing that facilitates Apple's rack-mounted server release, several analysts agree, is the release of the company's latest operating system, which is touted as being more stable than previous versions and can support systems running on multiple processors. Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of systems-software research with IDC, says: "For a long time, Apple really didn't have an operating system that allowed it to be able to sell a mid-range server. It wasn't set up for that." Apple currently offers server towers running versions of its operating system. For a short time, it sold these running IBM's AIX operating system, a Unix variant, Kusnetzky says. Spaced out
In its early days, the company also offered its own version of Unix, called A/UX, according to Haff. He claims: "Apple was never really successful with it. It made a bit of a play in the low-end server space, but we're talking about relatively ancient history here." With the introduction of Mac OS X, Apple buoyed its operating system with the help of Unix. Mac OS X is based in part on BSD, an operating system that has its roots in early versions of Unix from Sun Microsystems and others, Kusnetzky says. "It has been a server operating environment for quite a number of years," he notes. Thanks to its ties to Unix, "Mac OS X has the potential of going anywhere Unix goes", Kusnetzky claims, citing examples such as small embedded appliance servers, mid-range servers and mainframe servers. He adds: "As a category, Unix covers the gamut, from the very, very small to the very, very large. I'm not saying that Mac OS X is ready for all of these different configurations, but it certainly has the potential."