Apple killed their Xserve server. What will they kill next?
The Apple Xserve is a typical small server. The box is horizontal for use in a rack, just like the millions of rack mount servers produced by Dell, the millions produced by HP, and the millions produced by all the other suppliers. The Xserve has dual power supplied, just like the millions of others. The dual power supply is often the only difference between a cheap rack mount server and a medium price horizontal layout desktop computer.
The Apple Xserve is painted white and uses Apple's pretty version of Unix. Given that the operating system is free Unix and white paint costs the same as black paint, the Xserve had an unusually high price. I know some people who have purchased Xserves then not used them because, on a project by project basis, there was always a faster and cheaper way to run the project on a conventional reliably Linux based server.
The white paint is a waste on a server because servers are usually in another room where people never see them. The pretty Apple decorative theme for Unix is available in a variety of free versions for Unix, Linux, and Windows.
The Xserve was pushed as a Web server. Did anyone ever use one as a Web server? A few years ago it was common to see a new Xserve on display on a desk then find the computer room is exclusively populated by Dells. The company displaying the Xserve would also have a token Apple G something running a token Apple large LCD screen for demonstrations to prospective customers. The Web site developers would use other brands because they are faster, have a larger capacity, more network options, a bigger screen, or a screen with better colour accuracy.
Xserves were pushed as small office servers to replace the Microsoft Small Business Server. The Microsoft SBS ran on any hardware, the total cost was always lower, and you could buy hardware compatible with all your other machines, which meant one company servicing all the hardware. Today you can install a Linux distribution with a ready made set of replacements for the SBS. back when Xserves first appeared, it was harder to find all the right bits for a SBS replacement and some Apple retailers cashed in on that problem.
SBS also had a license limit of 25 users which created a problem for businesses with 26 staff. I do not know what limits Apple placed on their Xserve but using an Xserve effectively locked you into the same proprietary jail as the SBS. Today Xserve users are faced with breaking out of the Xserve jail and, based on online comments from some Xserve users, they see the problem as big as the problem they through they were solving when they moved from Microsoft to Apple.
If you use an Xserve as a SBS, which Linux distributions are you considering as a replacement?
Some Linux distributions have one CD for a desktop and a separate CD for a server. The server version does not install a usable user interface. You have to then install Webmin or a similar Web interface to manage the server. I prefer choice. I prefer the all in one DVDs that install a desktop style interface so you can site at the server and do anything. I then like to add Webmin, Usermin, and Virtualmin to control the server from other machines on the network. You can also set up Webmin for secure server management from your beach side cafe table.
SBS has all sorts of goodies included. OpenOffice covers the Microsoft Office area but not the Microsoft Exchange area. SBS originally offered a clunky Exchange style setup without all the Exchange features. Today most of the Exchange features are available free on Linux and the only problem is assembling the right collection. I do not know of a Linux distribution with an installation option labelled
SBS replacement or
Xserve replacement. Please recommend the closest equivalents you have used.
You have two years maximum to plan your escape from Xserve. You should also be planning a similar escape if you are locked into SBS or Exchange.