For years Apple has been encouraging enterprise, scientific computing, and data center customers to adopt Mac OS X and Macintosh hardware in the form of Xserves, rack-mountable server units. However, those days are drawing to a close: Apple has revealed (PDF) that it does not plan to develop future versions of its Xserve hardware, and will stop selling existing Xserve units as of January 31, 2011. After that, users looking for Mac OS X server hardware will be limited to a version of the Mac mini with Mac OS X Server installed, or a new repurposed version of Apple’s Mac Pro tower, for expanded storage and processing options.
Apple says it will honor all Xserve warranties (which run for three years) and support programs, and plans to make service parts available for five years (seven years in the case of California customers).
Apple correctly claims that its high-end Mac Pro tower—with 12 cores of Intel Xeon processing—outperforms the Xserve line, and is available with 512 GB of solid state storage; furthermore, users concerned about power consumption should look at the Mac mini servers, which are currently powered by 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs and sip just 11 watts when idle. However, neither system is particularly suitable for customers looking to park Mac OS X hardware in data centers or other hosting facilities, which often rely on systems being rack-mountable with consistent cooling profiles, having accessible components, and having all critical ports accessible to “crash carts” with displays and other peripherals. Although there are companies that specialize in Mac hosting—including macminicolo—Apple’s decision is likely to have a significant impact on the adoption of Mac OS X Server in enterprises, and reduce the appeal of Apple systems for scientific computing and data center use.