Along with its new "Tiger" client operating system, Apple on Friday plans to ship Mac OS X Server 10.4, a major upgrade of its Unix-based server platform.
Tiger Server--which can be used to deploy Macintosh, Windows and Linux clients--brings more than 200 new features, including native support for 64-bit applications for high-performance computing; iChat Server, for deploying secure instant-messaging within an organization; and Weblog Server, for publishing and sharing Web logs. It also includes Apple's Xgrid distributed computing software, which the Cupertino, Calif.-based company said can turn a group of Macs into a virtual supercomputer.
Apple released preview versions of the Tiger server and client last June at its Worldwide Developer Conference, and several solution providers that tried the server preview said they liked what they saw in terms of new features, enhancements and under-the-hood performance.
"The file-sharing performance is supposed to be two-and-a-half times faster than previous versions, so that will be a big plus," said Aaron Freimark, IT director at TekServe, a New York-based Apple specialist.
Other new features in Tiger Server include support for access-control lists and native file permissions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 Active Directory environments; Software Update Server, which lets administrators host their own proxy/cache server for Apple software updates; and adaptive junk mail filtering with virus detection and quarantine. There's also the Gateway Setup Assistant, designed to make it easier for small businesses and home offices to set up network services such as DHCP, NAT, DNS, port routing, firewall and VPN.
"Tiger Server is supposed to authenticate easier and does seem to have some better tools and work better with Active Directory on the Windows side," said Gary Dailey, president of Daystar Technology, an Atlanta-based Apple VAR. "[Mac OS X 10.3] Panther Server was a great leap above [Mac OS X 10.2] Jaguar, so we're really looking forward to Tiger Server being another jump up."
W. Ian Blanton, director of on-site consulting at Tech Superpowers, a Boston-based Apple solution provider, said Tiger Server brings a new BSD core and more flexible built-in RAID software. Yet many customers had been waiting for the access-control lists in particular, he noted.
"The big thing for a lot of server administrators will be the improved directory services and access-control lists," Blanton said. "The access control lists will be a big advantage that will bring [Apple] a little more into parity with some features that you have with [Microsoft Windows] NT Server and XP Server. I think that's one of the things Apple is taking much more seriously. They are targeting the people who had Windows NT Servers that are really now looking at the end of their life. And Apple can approach these people and say, 'You know, there's an alternative here.' "
Tiger Server is priced at $499 for a 10-client edition and $999 for an unlimited-client edition. An upgrade package also is available for customers who buy Apple's Xserve G5 rack-mount server on or after April 12, according to the company.
"The [Tiger] Server edition has all kinds of amazing features that help you manage clients and new services--like a Weblog server, an iChat server and a Software Update proxy server--that will allow VARs and everybody [else] to build super-productive network environments using Mac OS X," said Ken Bereskin, senior director of Mac OS X product marketing at Apple.
The Xserve comes with an unlimited-client license, and solution providers said that feature has been especially attractive to customers mulling the Mac server platform.
"You're pulled out of the per-seat licensing with the Xserve. And even then, for about $1,000 for Mac OS X Server, you can get the unlimited license," Blanton said. "That's a real big draw for people."
And sometimes the unlimited-client license can make the difference for customers weighing Mac-based vs. Windows-based server hardware, TekServe's Freimark said. "In places that are comparing Macs and Windows, that's a big push. Also, a lot of places don't know how much they're going to grow, so that really helps," he said.