Software // Enterprise Applications
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3/26/2007
06:04 PM
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Inside Apple's Leopard Server OS

Our Mac expert gives you the inside technical scoop on what we know so far about Apple's new OS X Server 10.5, which will be showcased at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

With the upcoming release of Mac OS X Server 10.5, aka Leopard Server, the Mac IT world is thinking "What is going to be new?" Well, to be honest, everyone is. Apple's infamous closed-mouthed approach to major OS releases, while great for marketing purposes, isn't always so great for the IT world. However, Apple isn't a road map company, so if we want to get an idea of what to expect in Leopard, we have to dig into the public information Apple has released.

Fortunately, there's a decent bit of it. It's not everything, (certainly not Steve's famous "Top Secret" features), but it's not a sharp stick in the eye either. One of the big features for many people is the iCal server. I know I've not been alone in saying that the lack of calendaring in Mac OS X Server has long been a real hole in the product's feature set, and with iCal Server, Apple is making its first real attempt at plugging that.

iCal Server

iCal Server is an open source-based calendar and scheduling server with per-server licensing. So unlike Exchange and many other calendaring servers, you can run as many clients as you can against the server for the same price. (Regardless of how iCal Server stacks up feature-wise against Exchange and the others, the licensing model for iCal Server is one that works out much better for customers.) iCal Server allows for both human and resource scheduling, along with some kind of "public folder" support. (I put that in quotes, because "public folders" are gradually becoming a kind of generic term that means whatever the person using it wants it to mean. In my case, I'm thinking along Exchange lines.)

iCal Server is based on the CalDAV standard, a set of protocols designed to allow for Exchange/Domino-like calendaring functionality, without having to tie yourself to any specific product. (A full list of the various standards involved can be found at http://www.calconnect.org/calendaringstandards.shtml) To assist with that end, Apple has joined CalConnect, a consortium focusing on calendaring interoperability.

The elephant in the room of course is Microsoft, who is not a member of CalConnect. What is iCal Server's solution for Microsoft clients? Well, if you're talking about Outlook, then there's a number of people writing connectors for Outlook 2003 or so, and 2007 may not even need a special connector, or so I've heard. (Note, I'd love to get some real info on this.)

So for Outlook users, the, er, outlook is pretty good. But what about Entourage users? I know people don't believe me, but really, there are people who like using Entourage, and not just in an Exchange environment. They're Mac users, what about them? Well, the answer for that is murky. By murky, I mean nonexistent. There's nothing that I've found in either iCal Server, Entourage, or CalDAV that talks about Entourage beyond "well, they can read iCal files, right?."

While I understand that yes, Microsoft has not published their DAV implementation as well as they should, it seems kind of a silly move to not support Mac users running one of the only currently available groupware clients, especially when at least one company, Kerio, does support Entourage. I get that Apple may have issues with supporting Microsoft clients, but getting any company to not only sign off on a groupware infrastructure change, but also a desktop change en masse is not going to be easy, if its even possible in most cases.

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