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back to article Steve Jobs chucks Apple server biz from pram

Like any other billionaire — or three-year-old — Steve Jobs does exactly what he wants to do, and stops doing it when he's no longer interested. Last week, Jobs pulled the plug on Xserve machines, and though companies that depend on Apple's servers and related Xsan2 clustered file systems may have been a bit shocked when it …

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Flame

The X Serve was doomed the moment Apple went Intel

This was a long time coming.

The PPC G4 and later G5 Apple used in the early Xserve systems can stand its ground in the SMB server racket even today. PPC may lag on raw power versus their modern Intel counterparts. However, its task switching, IO and from there overall system latency is way lower compared to Intel.

From the moment Apple went Intel it was only a matter of time until it kills XServe. The competitive edge was not there anymore. The only way for Apple to stay competitive in the server racket was to stay on PPC which was not an option for a multitude of reasons. Development costs, "special relationship" with Intel, you name it.

Nearly all shops using XServe started making contingency arrangements as far back as then. So this will not really hurt any one of them. Most of them have a plan B by now.

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Yes it's sad, but understandable

The last time Apple discussed its financials, it warned that its average margin might fall below 40% (to 36% or so, if memory serves) --- figures which the industry as a whole can only dream about. If you could sell AppleCare and iPods at 36% margins and only barely broke even or made 1 or 2% on your server business, would you bother? I say this as a disappointed user of nearly two dozen Xserves.

And we're disappointed not only because of the inconvenience but because Apple's server monitoring tools were quite good, and their Xserve hardware was more reliable than anything else we've tried in 1U.

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Happy

Margins

If you're right (and I think you are) then expect to see a few other toys fly out of the pram in the next few years.

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That's okay.

Nobody who is sane relies on Apple for their IT infrastructure.

Anyone stupid enough to buy IT kit from a vendor that doesn't do roadmaps deserves everything they get.

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roadschmaps

I still have the Sun roadmaps from 2008. Good for a laugh.

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Deserve everything we get?

An extraordinarily easy to use and implement server that doesn't require a techie to get it up and running. For small shops like us it's been utterly cost effective - we run Mac OS X Server on a 6 year old old bog standard G5 Power Mac, rather than a dedicated X-Serve machine. For corporates buying X-serves by the dozen however, then yes, you may have a point. In that situation it would have made sense to go with the mainstream unless you had some very niche requirements.

Sanity also involves checking alternatives with an open mind.

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Jobs Horns

Re: That's okay.

Not only doesn't do roadmaps but also sues the living shit out of any third-party who dares to make anything remotely compatible.

All together meaning that when His Steveiness wakes up one morning and decides that your favourite iWossaname is surplus to His requirements, you are screwed.

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Gold badge

Yes and no

The problem was that customers have to choose between Microsoft with a roadmap but no clue how to build a sensible, secure platform or one that does but cannot be bothered to complete the picture for corporate use. So, "a patch a minute from cradle to grave" or "it mostly just works, even without anti-virus".

I have seen private banks switch to Apple kit because they were fed up with the risk any type of Microsoft infrastructure poses, this will more or less but a spike into that trend.

Oh well, maybe this could be yet-another-chance for Linux. After all, it grew on the back of dismal Microsoft server performance to start with..

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Anonymous Coward

Agree

You're totally right, I can't even start to tell you how much easier and cheaper it is deploying and managing ExtremeZ-IP on your existing file servers instead of one of these damned things.

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Happy

Re: AC @ 14:30

You should go into marketing: "Microsoft Windows Server - as good as most other server platforms since 2003!"

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Bronze badge

Are these server things important?

If Apple (née Apple Computer) reckons that servers aren't important, then who am I to disagree?

Since Microsoft (and others) are so happy to follow Apple's lead blindly, how will they react to Steve Jobs' latest pronouncement. On the one hand, it'll mean more demand for Windows Servers licences (and I assume that Windows still supports Mac clients), on the other hand, if they copy Apple (as they have been wont to do), then it'll make the most spectacular hara kiri.

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WTF?

13000 units per quarter?

That's it? THAT is what all this fuss is about? 52000 units per year. It's been eight years since the XServe was launched, but let's be generous and assume those figures have held up for the full eight years. We're still talking *total* sales of *less than half a million worldwide*. And I'm being *very* generous with that guesstimate. Presumably there were quite a few upgrades and replacements in those figures over the years, so the actual number of units still in service is likely to be smaller still.

Now... Apple are selling *millions* of high-margin products each quarter. So why the blazes would they give a toss about such a tiny, tiny niche of a market that's contributing mere pennies to their bottom line?

Apple is a *business*, not a fucking charity. If you've made the classical business blunder of placing all your eggs in one basket, that's your own damned problem, not Apple's.

Did you miss the part where Jobs mentioned they'd been running builds of OS X on Intel CPUs *long* before they made the switch? THAT is how you do long-term planning, for Codd's sake! Learn. Please!

Apple are still selling OS X Server. They're still making Mac Pros and Mac Minis, both with server configurations, and both of which are selling in rather larger numbers, so economies of scale can be applied on Apple's part. A Mac Mini will run a small business or production house's email and FTP just fine. A couple of Mac Pros can handle fibre-channel connections and SANs for you if you desire—or you could just buy the kit off the shelf. Final Cut Pro won't give a damn what OS the server's running. It won't even care if it's in a VM.

Yes, you'll need to make some changes to your IT infrastructure. No, it's not the end of the fucking world. Stop acting like you've made a career out of being a victim and grow up. It's not Apple's job to ensure your success. It's *yours*. And nobody else's.

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FAIL

Re: 13000 units per quarter?

"Apple is a *business*, not a fucking charity."

And by hyping up server gear and then pulling the plug, they're behaving like neither. Well, maybe the kind of the former that doesn't believe in repeat business.

"Yes, you'll need to make some changes to your IT infrastructure. No, it's not the end of the fucking world. Stop acting like you've made a career out of being a victim and grow up. It's not Apple's job to ensure your success. It's *yours*. And nobody else's."

Your rabid defence of Apple's lack of staying power is misplaced, and your ability to perceive of any motivation to criticise Apple's strategy other than some narrow personal use-cases is somewhat deficient. Georgia Tech probably didn't run an XServe cluster so that Nathan Barley USA could supersize his Final Cut Pro skills.

I doubt that TPM is personally miffed that Apple have cut their customers loose: he's just pointing out the fickle nature of The Steve and how The Steve's decisions will only alienate anyone who did actually stick their neck out to buy Apple gear for the server room. It's a business opinion, remember. Sheesh!

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Empathy and sympathy

I have both for people on the receiving end of this (stupid, IMO) decision, but for the author to trot out the old "glossy-eyed people trying to up their cool quotient by having the latest Apple iGadget" nonsense, it kind of takes the edge off how bad I feel for you.

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Jobs Halo

Consumers prefer style over substance

So you feel less sympathy for people because of the views of a third party? Curious...

Actually, I would suggest that saying that "Apple clearly has other priorities, chasing the wider consumer market" isn't a dig but good observation of a perfectly rational marketing strategy from Mr. Jobs. Techies might understand that iGadgets are pretty average and / or borderline defective, but Joe Public likes how purdey they appear.

The logic sucks, but it makes sales.

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Coat

Internet Nuance Deficiency

My use of "you" was directed at the item's author. Nothing gets my goat more than one group of users insulting another group simply because they don't happen to share the same needs or interests.

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Windows or Linux will do

Some Windows servers or Linux servers with Samba and the some client software such as Dave would do instead of Xserve if all you are doing is using it as a file server.

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Thumb Up

Couldn't...

...give a toss about Apple Servers or whatever. I'm just tickled pink by a Samba client called 'Dave'. That's made my day, that has. And it's only 10:20.

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Unhappy

Chuckle away

But the joke quickly wears thin when you and half the IT dept are also called Dave...

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Anonymous Coward

Clustering

Apple xservers were good for one thing and that was clustering for use with adobe and other distributed computing based programs, other than that they were too expensive for anything else.

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I agree, to an extent

While I agree with the article to an extent, I wonder who the typical XServe customer really is, and if they're beat served (ahem) by running their own kit.

Apple appears to be investing heavily in infrastructure suitable for cloud offerings (in the soon to be operational North Carolina DC). I would have thought that Apple offering servers as a service would be much more in line with Apple's ethos.

This might also be the different approach that Apple need to take in enterprise (at least for SMEs) that will allow them to fully break into the market that Dell and HP have pretty much sown up. These SMEs are really beginning to wake up to the benefits of cloud.

Let's face it, the NC DC seems massively oversized for offering a few extra streaming iTunes movies (and possibly music). Could it be the start of Apple's enterprise play?

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Jobs Halo

ipod touch server farm

Apple are getting ready to migrate to A4 (ARM) blade servers with flash memory.

I'm actually being (a bit) serious... cheep, low power and low heat output.

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FAIL

Letting children run the store

Sorry, we only stock the candy I LIKE

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iLike?

iLike?

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Maths

It's simple maths. Judging by the appallingly low XServe sales figures, Apple only stock the candy it's customers like.

The execution might suck, but if there's no money to be made in selling expensive "luxury" servers then the decision is sound.

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Coat

To coin a phrase

Change your servers. Not that big of a deal.

Steve

Sent from my jesusPhone

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A4 blades?

Data Centres are all about low power consumption units at the moment. That means easily cooled hardware and low volt CPU's, everything Apple now has. They should make A4 blades with flash ssd's each one thinner than an iPad. You could get a lot clustered in a 2U chassis. That would be a lot of processing power.

Of course it will never happen...

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Clustered iPods

>Of course it will never happen...

Rule : if you can think of it, some sad geek has already built it.

http://portal.acm.org/results.cfm?&cfid=113062480&cftoken=66386576

Of course it's not a productivity cluster, but I bet you could find more "serious" projects if you looked for them.

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kneecapping

Apple sold "hardly any" XServes according to Lord Steve J.

Not upgrading the XServes on an even semi-regular basis might have something to do with that.

Failing to properly market the product wouldn't have helped.

Pricing XServes above competing products from other vendors didn't help either.

Regardless of the small sales numbers, even if the two above points had been reasonably addressed by Apple, it was worth keeping that arrow in their quiver in case something really interesting happened further down the road. They've got money coming out of their arse so it's not like it would put a dent in their savings.

The decision seems very half baked and makes people question Apple's commitment to ANYTHING it does.

Anyway Steve, you could have kept the XServe as a - how do you put it? - ah yes, a HOBBY.

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Hardware Partnerships

I know that Apple is very proud of their HW, industrial design, etc... But for low-volume servers, maybe it might have made more sense for them to partner with an existing server maker (Dell, HP, etc) and just focus on getting OS X Server running well on that harware. They don't have to make a lot of money on the server business, they just need to keep it around to prevent "creative industry" workgroup LANs from moving to PC.

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Boffin

Who cares about tin these days

"Parallels and VMware even have virtual machine hypervisors that can even be used on servers to host Snow Leopard Server instances and run them side-by-side with Linux or Windows instances"

And there it is. With the datacentres turning more and more to virtual tin running on who-the-hell-cares underneath, why would Apple stay in the server/tin game? I've already got Snow Leopard Server running virtualised. It's never even seen an Xserve.

My assumption is that Apple have seen the writing on the wall for the hardware/server industry, namely that nobody cares what's running, as long as it runs a decent hypervisor. They certainly don't anticipate anyone spending over the odds for a pretty Apple rack.

If you really really must run OS-X server, run it in a virtual machine like all your other servers should be running in by now, and save yourself a fortune by running generic hardware, specced to your own tastes, not just what Apple's configurators say you should run.

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Re: Who cares about tin these days

Absolutely agree that this would be the sensible way forward, but currently OS X Server's EULA only allows it to run in a virtual machine on an "Apple labelled computer". Of course it's entirely possible to do otherwise, but no enterprise would ever risk running unlicensed, unsupported software in production!

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Real impact's not the servers themselves.

Like the quote says, it's "video processing and rich media customers". These are the guys offloading a lot of processing from the desktop to the servers, and they've just seen their back end hardware plans go "pft". What do you do then? Stick with Apple, without the ability to rack stuff in the data centre, or take the opportunity to look elsewhere?

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Pint

A or B

Step 1: Assume Apple is hairy.

Step 2: Rip the bandaid off fast.

Step 3: Move on.

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Thumb Up

Ahhhaha, awesome first sentence...

..."Like any other billionaire — or three-year-old — Steve Jobs does exactly what he wants to do, and stops doing it when he's no longer interested."

AWESOME.

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FAIL

Racks

OK, so your nicely organised racks aren't going to look half as good with two enormous 12U towers in them... but for the love of God why aren't Apple making Mac Pro's with dual-PSUs? That's most likely the single biggest kick in the balls to come out of all of this.

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app store or GTFO!

Steve doesn't care about anything that doesn't have an app store. Their suggestion is rackmount minis? Are you kidding me? I like my 2008 xserve a lot and even the G5 still holds it's own (as long as you don't mind the server room being a gazillion degrees and 100dB). Not having LOM on the Mac pro sucks but so did the xserve implementation (any one who dealt with the serialnumberd problems when using two NIC's knows what I'm talking about).

It is a moot point anyway as the Apple zombies will mindlessly consume whatever Steve tells them to. What's that Steve? Fill these racks with iPads instead of Xserves? Yes master....

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Gold badge

2 months notice?

@Fred Flintstone, the choice is not between Apple or Windows. There's other excellent OSes around.

@Ian Halstead, I've used a similar setup (running Linux on a desktop as a sever.) But, fact of the matter is, the Mini is not a server, and neither is a Mac Pro. As was addressed in the article, they don't rack mount, they don't have dual power supplies. Servers have extra management functionality. And finally, although I think almost any motherboard is adequate, server boards have superior I/O performance.

Personally what floors me is them discontinuing the XServer with *2 months* notice. 2 months? And, I doubt there's any financial reason for it, I think it's just Jobs doesn't want to make servers any more.

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If Apple pull the plug on hardware...

... and won't sell you any more, I think that gives businesses who have invested in Apple server systems the *right* to port OSX to new non-Apple hardware, to keep running - and damn their restrictive licenses.

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Jobs Horns

Are you being XServed?

Getting Georgia Tech into the Top 500 wasn't as shiny as I had hoped. Until Frank Gehry starts designing data centers, nobody will show off their server rooms anyway. And that means no more being XServed for you!

Sent from my iHole.

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Joke

New server range

The secret is out: Apple have a new rackmount server range planned: the iRaq.

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FAIL

Dropped the ball

I never thought there was much point in the Xserves. Unless you had a specific reason to use them then it always seemed that using off the shelf x86 servers with some flavour of Linux was always going to be just as good and considerably less expensive.

However, now that apple are investing so much into ARM products, it seems that they were in a perfect position to transition their few existing Xserve customers over to low power, high density blade servers based on their own A4 processors.

Having such a product out there would have been another market leading move from Apple and would have likely attracted attention of a lot of new server buyers who are interested in power savings in the server room and are not currently well served in that regard by intel. Somebody would quickly port a linux distro to such a platform and if apple were smart they could have picked up a lot of sales from the freetards as well.

What they should have done is refresh the existing products to take the 5600 xeons as suggested in the article. This would have bought them some time and not pissed off their existing customers as well as avoid reinforcing the "apple is not serious about servers" attitude that already existed in the market.

If they ever want to reentering the server market it will be a lot harder.

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ARM server

The fit between apples own ARM hardware and Xserver looks so good on paper that it must have been discussed. So either there is a very good reason for Apple not to go down that road perhaps the server market becomes too 'commodity' at that point or Steve has gone all cloudy. OR Someone told Steve about how good it would be in slightly the wrong way and Steve destroyed the whole division in a fit of pique.

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Thumb Up

iGadget has a name you know!

chasing the wider consumer market and the vast profits it can extract from glossy-eyed people trying to up their cool quotient by having the latest Apple iPhad.

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Short sighted in the long term

Basically this pulls apple completely out of the serious server business, and if apple decide to return in the future then they are going to have a hard job to be taken seriously as this will always be at the back of people's mind when buying new infrastructure.

Yes they are selling iphone, ipod and ipads by the bucket-load but eventually the market will become saturated with people just replacing old devices every once in a while ticking along no real growth. And this always assumes that someone doesn't come up with a new killer product in these sectors. Many like the apple devices but there are only a small percentage of true fanboys who would automatically pick apple whatever.

As for laptop/desktop space are apple growing there? I see some people buying macs but not huge numbers of people and the price puts off most people.

So where is the next growth area for apple? Whilst the server business isnt making much money for apple its still making a profit. In future apple could decide to try and innovate in the business IT market this just makes it harder for them to break back into it as I know if I was in charge of purchasing services or equipment if apple came back into the market I would sit back for a long time before even considering a switch to apple as why risk at a future date having to migrate back to linux or windows?

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Happy

ha ha

I can only laugh. Saw this one coming about 6 years ago. That's what happens when you let a designer chose the server.

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Big Brother

It is a smart business decision

Like it or not, if it makes more money.

Long term: if Apple's plan worked as Steve wished (there is a chance), he doesn't need to worry about server market now. There are still big consumer market Apple does not control yet. Once they own everything general public use in "normal day life", they already have total control, then business/server/everything else will fall into Apple's control.

It is all about marketing and control. Like it or not, there is no one better at marketing than Apple. I can think very limited number of organizations can do better at control, but Apple is not far behind really.

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Linux

nobody

Ever needed an Apple Server. NT4.0 was superior. Come think of if people were using Novell Netware long after it made sense.

Nowadays I don't think anyone needs a Microsoft server. Exchange has always been crazy stuff. It and WSUS are the last to reasons to run MS.

Now I'll get loads of down votes because I dared to suggest an Apple product that is now dead was always only for Fanbois and pointless.

The whole point to Mac OS and Mac OS X is the GUI and desktop user experience.

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