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Snow Leopard Server to ramp up scalability and performance

post #1 of 27
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Building upon Mac OS X Snow Leopard's aim to improve overall performance for Mac desktop users, Snow Leopard Server will similarly seek to improve scalability and reliability for Mac server users. That is particularly evident in improvements to its email and directory services.

Migration to Dovecot for email services

In 2003, Apple released Mac OS X 10.3 Panther Server using the open source Cyrus server for POP and IMAP email. In Snow Leopard Server, Apple will now be using Dovecot for POP and IMAP email services.

The new choice is based upon Dovecot's enhanced scalability to handle more uses, better data reliability, and new features including automatic "self healing" data corruption detection and repair, according to people familiar with Apple's plans.

The Dovecot open source project is also known for its focus on security as well as full compliance with the IMAP specification. According to testing cited by imapwiki.org, the latest version of Dovecot fully passed a battery of over 440 IMAP tests, while Cyrus, the popular IMAP software Apple has been using in Leopard Server, failed at least a couple dozen of the tests.

The IMAP implementations used in Gmail, IBM's Notes Domino, Kerio Mail Server, and Sun Java Messaging Server (currently used by Apple for its MobileMe cloud services) were also all reported to have unreliable behavior when checking messages, bugs in updating flags on atomic items in mailboxes, and multiple failures in scripted testing of their compatibility with the IMAP standard.

Strict adherence to IMAP is as important in email software as web standards compliance is in a web server or browser. In many cases it is even critical, as poor implementation of standards on the web usually only results in improperly formatted pages or flaws in using web applications, while errors in IMAP can result in email data loss.

According to the Dovecot project's web site, the software is also "among the highest performing IMAP servers," using self optimizing, transparent indexing of mail folders that support modification by multiple concurrent users. The software also supports IMAP extensions including IDLE push notifications, and provides plugins for handling ACL support and quota limitations. Apple is also expect to tout improvements of its own, including support for server side email rules and vacation messages.

Open Directory improvements

Apple is also improving its Open Directory services in Snow Leopard Server for better scalability and performance in handling more concurrent connections. Directory services are used to manage users, groups, and devices on the network. Administrators use Open Directory to set user permissions and establish policy for systems bound to their network domain, such as limitations on what software can be installed, and the default settings and preferences users see at login.

Rather than writing its own implementation of LDAP itself, Apple uses the popular OpenLDAP open source software and then builds its own graphical admin tools and integration with other software packages included in Mac OS X Server, including MIT's Kerberos and Apple's own SASL Password Server for authentication.

That modular design enables the company to rapidly incorporate the latest improvements made by the OpenLDAP project and integrate Mac OS X Server into existing enterprise directory services environments in a straightforward way, from universities using Keberos with LDAPv3 to corporations using Microsofts' Active Directory or Sun's NIS.

Leopard Server's Open Directory used OpenLDAP 2.3, while Snow Leopard Server will reportedly move to the latest 2.4.11 stable release, which offers dynamic monitoring enhancements, support for supply DNS SRV records to identify the default server, and "significant performance enhancements throughout the client and server code base," according to the OpenLDAP project site.

Address Book Server strips contacts from LDAP

While Apple uses LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol) in Open Directory for managing network users, a new Address Book Server in Snow Leopard Server is reported to employ a different system to allow users on the network to share their personal and group contacts across multiple computers on the network.

Similar to iCal Server, which debuted in Leopard Server, the new Address Book Server will make use of extensions to WebDAV, a protocol developed to make web servers accommodate both read and write operations. Both iCal Server and Address Book Server act as specialized web servers handling specific types of files, with iCal Server using CalDAV to manage event data, and Address Book Server using the CardDAV specification to manage contacts.

This enables Snow Leopard Server to support the rich contact records supported in Address Book without running into the schema limitations and security issues related to LDAP. Along with iCal Server and the mail services Apple provides using Dovecot, this will give Snow Leopard Server the integrated email, contacts, and calendar of Exchange without the cost of Exchange, or its steep resource demands related to its massive, specialized email database architecture.

iPhone-savvy Wiki services and remote access

Apple's web-centric approach to serving businesses' information sharing needs extends to Mac OS X's collaboration services, which provides web-based wikis, blogs, mailing lists, and RSS feeds tied in with Open Directory users, comparable in some respects to Microsoft's SharePoint services.

In Snow Leopard, those features will be enhanced with search across multiple wikis, a template optimized for mobile use on the iPhone, and a central My Page site customized to provide access to all of the updates to the intranet wiki sites a user selects to track.

Along with sending push notifications to mobile users outside the company's local network, Snow Leopard Server also enables mobile access for setting up secure incoming connections to remote users, providing them with proxy service access to their corporate email and intranet websites.

Snow Leopard shared performance updates

Snow Leopard Server will also inherit the same kernel updates as the Snow Leopard desktop version, with full 64-bit addressing to handle massive amounts of RAM. That's a particular advantage in the the server realm, where applications can take full advantage of wide resources to accommodate more simultaneous network users. Leopard Server already employs 64-bit versions of many of its non-kernel services, from Apache web hosting to email.

The move to a 64-bit kernel will give Snow Leopard Server security advantages as well, as noted in a previous article. Other new architecture changes due in the Snow Leopard kernel will also benefit the Server side, including Grand Central technology for optimizing performance on multiple-core and multiple-processor hardware.
post #2 of 27
Perhaps Snow Leopard Server will finally entice increased enterprise adoption of Macs. The iPhone is likely the gateway to this adoption as many firms have already deployed the iPhone. By leveraging features that the iPhone can use, adoption is surely to increase.
post #3 of 27
I tried to use Leopard Server on my web-facing host but it was just too complicated. It has two setup modes: a simple mode, which is designed for a LAN server, and a fully configurable mode under which you get deluged with settings. There is no web-facing simple mode.

In the end I used Tiger client with Apple's built-in web sharing and MailServe for Tiger as the Mail server. Works great. I used Tiger instead of Leopard due to the firewall changes in Leopard.
post #4 of 27
what is the chance of Leopard owners getting a FREE upgrade to Snow Leopard?

(i am curious because of the on going Mac Box Set promotion, why you want to promote a previous version OS when the next one is looming any time soon?)

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post #5 of 27
I currently use Leopard server in my business now, actually we only use leopard server. We currently have both Windows desktops and mac desktops and we have been highly impressed with it. The one weak area for us has been mail, we have explored Kerio Mail server which we are extremely impressed. However we will postpone an upgrade until we see what Snow leopard has to offer in this area.

Make no mistake that Snow leopard will be a contender, however there are a few things that I feel need to be addressed for enterprises

1. Easy clustering
2. Apple needs to work with Oracle to restore support for Oracle on OSX Server

An added bonus would be if they could work out a deal to include Sun's Xvm server in the platform when it is released. This would allow built in Virtualization in the Apple GUI vs VMWare fusion.

These are just some of the things that would make the platform a enterprise contender, however for small to medium sized businesses the platform is already there. Snow Leopard will only make that more apparent.
post #6 of 27
With Leopard we took the server platform to our heart and by know we use Wiki, AFP, OpenDirectory, SAMBA and to this we have a Windows server which to date serves terminal server (business system as well as AutoCAD needs windows) but also basic network services like DNS and DHCP.

And here comes a thing which Apple probably could solve: redundancy for DHCP and DNS! I have read a bit about this in various forums but it's never just straight forward. And if our current server hosting these services are down - the network dies (in due DHCP lease time). If they could look att all these basic network services and work out not only mirroring solutions but full failover redundancy that would make my heart so much lighter! The failover functionality can be nicely integrated with load balance functionality. It's not easy - I know - but ooh so sweet. This would then also be good for OpenDirectory where the replica role is a "passive" bridge untill the master is back.

What else? SAN, iSCSI?
post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by tumme-totte View Post


What else? SAN, iSCSI?


The fact that Apple doesn't create an iSCSI initiator pretty much proves to me that they still have a lukewarm attitude towards the biz sector. I shouldn't have to rely on 3rd party like ATTO and GlobalSAN for a simple initiator.

OS X Server works in certain environments but scaling and OS X server almost sounds like an oxymoron.
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post #8 of 27
I can't believe I forgot about that one, That has been a big issue for us, I would love to have isci included in snow leopard.
post #9 of 27
It would be great to see an article on what Apple uses for their own business. There's no doubt that OS X server can be scalable for certain applications, if that's what is being used for iTunes, the Apple online store, Apple's corporate mail and web sites, etc. Granted, the MobileMe service rollout was a black eye, but how much of that was because of deficiencies in OS X versus the application layer?
post #10 of 27
I'm a pretty satisfied Kerio administrator. CalDAV support is excellent and once they finally implemented ActiveSync support for iPhones, it's done a great job for us.

There are definitely some nice collaboration tools available in Leopard Server, but I was put off by all the reports of bugginess in their AFP and CalDAV implementations, thus I've stuck with Tiger Server and Kerio for the past few years. Would be nice to tie it all back together under Snow Leopard Server, but of course that would mean I'd have to ditch my old PowerMac G5 server in trade for a Mac Pro or an Xserve Xeon to make that move.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by amac4me View Post

Perhaps Snow Leopard Server will finally entice increased enterprise adoption of Macs.

Not unless Apple makes a lot of changes in server hardware. OSX server's greatest weakness is that its limited to a single relatively high end 1U server. Apple forcing upon you what they think you need doesn't fly with Enterprise customers. They either need to get a strong server chief who knows what he/she is doing or Apple needs to license OSX Server. All they're doing know is wasting what could be a very popular platform.
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by shanmugam View Post

what is the chance of Leopard owners getting a FREE upgrade to Snow Leopard?

(i am curious because of the on going Mac Box Set promotion, why you want to promote a previous version OS when the next one is looming any time soon?)

Zero chance, i'd say. (And though I know you haven't said this, the idea that Snow leopard offers so few enhancements over Leopard that Apple would be morally culpable if they charged money for it, is a piece of nonsense too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Apple should charge the full price Snow leopard is that big a deal.)
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post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by shanmugam View Post

what is the chance of Leopard owners getting a FREE upgrade to Snow Leopard?

I don't know, but having Leopard part of the name makes one wonder.
post #14 of 27
So I guess what most of you are saying is that OSX Server is still rather inferior to what Microsoft is offering. Is this correct? That there isn't much chance of OSX Server becoming the product of choice in any large corporation. It would be a damn shame if somebody were to get into Apple headquarters and find out they were running Windows Server software.

Apparently, all the talk about OSX being better than Windows is just talk. Or is the problem of just not having enough enterprise-based tools available? We'll see in another two to three years.
post #15 of 27
I've got no problems with Apple giving OS X giving Snow Leopard away for free.

Suddenly everyone's an armchair CFO and fretting about profit. How much development
time has Apple saved not having to support PPC? If Apple can get a critical mass of users onto
Snow Leopard on desktop and server that only makes their jobs easier.

I don't want our platform to end up like Microsoft where people cling to 6 year old software and beg for XP.

We're on the cusp of some of the best hardware that's come out of Intel and I want Apple to be focused on making Snow Leopard and subsequent OS releases as smooth and reliable as possible.
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post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

So I guess what most of you are saying is that OSX Server is still rather inferior to what Microsoft is offering. Is this correct? That there isn't much chance of OSX Server becoming the product of choice in any large corporation. It would be a damn shame if somebody were to get into Apple headquarters and find out they were running Windows Server software.

Apparently, all the talk about OSX being better than Windows is just talk. Or is the problem of just not having enough enterprise-based tools available? We'll see in another two to three years.

Zero chance. Windows Server is where Microsoft makes their money. They invest in their Office and server product lines because that really is the company's profit center.

OS X server isn't a profit center of significance for Apple and thus they do enough to make it usable but you can tell they don't have that thrust.

As BenRoethig said a 1U high end server is getting to be a datacenter anathema. I rarely worked on 1U server deals even a couple of years ago. Anyone with serious needs was buying at least a 2U but often 4U quad socket servers for the RAM mating them up to their SAN and using or at least investigating vmware or something like it.

I'm certainly not hating on Apple here. In a way I wish they'd simply create smaller 1U server with some of the more power efficient Xeon 3000 sequence procs for small business owners and for the love of deity please work with Promise to deliver an affordable iSCSI NAS/SAN solution.

Apple doesn't have to create the hardware infrastructure they need to partner with some solid companies to deliver the right products. Co-opt the support and R&D.
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post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

I've got no problems with Apple giving OS X giving Snow Leopard away for free.

Suddenly everyone's an armchair CFO and fretting about profit. How much development
time has Apple saved not having to support PPC? If Apple can get a critical mass of users onto
Snow Leopard on desktop and server that only makes their jobs easier.

I don't want our platform to end up like Microsoft where people cling to 6 year old software and beg for XP.

We're on the cusp of some of the best hardware that's come out of Intel and I want Apple to be focused on making Snow Leopard and subsequent OS releases as smooth and reliable as possible.

thats what i am thinking as well ...

great to have the major install base to be in Snow Leopard ...

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post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

So I guess what most of you are saying is that OSX Server is still rather inferior to what Microsoft is offering. Is this correct? That there isn't much chance of OSX Server becoming the product of choice in any large corporation. It would be a damn shame if somebody were to get into Apple headquarters and find out they were running Windows Server software.

Apparently, all the talk about OSX being better than Windows is just talk. Or is the problem of just not having enough enterprise-based tools available? We'll see in another two to three years.

I've run both and OS X Server is by far better than Windows for running a server. Where it fails is its GUI for server admins. Its not bad and a lot better than it used to be, but no where near Window's GUI. Its ironic. OS X beats Windows in almost every way on the desktop. In the pure server sense, OS X Server beats Windows handily. But in management, even as of Leopard Server, Windows Server beats OS X Server.
post #19 of 27
Apple's 1U offering is solid and crazy fast, I've installed several of those units and I can't be happier. However, Apple should've kept their XRAID, it was the best hardware RAID I've ever worked on, Apple's recommended alternative, the Promise, is crap and is one of the worst RAIDs.

Having said that, Apple must open new ways to support their IT customers, and must invest mega effort into the stability of OS X Server. An independent maintenance schedule for OS X Server must be implemented, IT cannot be expected to wait for OS X upgrades to get fixes for critical Server updates. Apple's Server software has major Permissions issues, Apple should dig deep and fix them. They should also provide more Permissions functionality to their Server-Admin app, it does not make sense to use the Terminal to set some file permissions.

Apple should also bring back the XRAID. If Apple puts good effort in OS X Server, many people in IT would invest in it because Windows Servers are ridiculously expensive.
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post #20 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post

Apple should also bring back the XRAID. If Apple puts good effort in OS X Server, many people in IT would invest in it because Windows Servers are ridiculously expensive.


Have you seen Active Storage?

Apple must really be showing Microsoft love because I agree ..if they put even a bit of effort into it they could deliver a superior setup to Microsoft's SBS servers.

No one really wants to run Exchange when they're a small shop. Ok wll that's probably incorrect but lets say that dealing with Exchange isn't always an easy thing.
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post #21 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

So I guess what most of you are saying is that OSX Server is still rather inferior to what Microsoft is offering.

On the OS level, OS X server is far superior to windows server. Windows and the Unix/Linux variants are just available in configurations to suit the client instead of the manufacturer.

Quote:
Or is the problem of just not having enough enterprise-based tools available? We'll see in another two to three years.

Not unless there is a change in leadership or Apple actually does buy Sun.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Zero chance. Windows Server is where Microsoft makes their money. They invest in their Office and server product lines because that really is the company's profit center.

OS X server isn't a profit center of significance for Apple and thus they do enough to make it usable but you can tell they don't have that thrust.

As BenRoethig said a 1U high end server is getting to be a datacenter anathema. I rarely worked on 1U server deals even a couple of years ago. Anyone with serious needs was buying at least a 2U but often 4U quad socket servers for the RAM mating them up to their SAN and using or at least investigating vmware or something like it.

I'm certainly not hating on Apple here. In a way I wish they'd simply create smaller 1U server with some of the more power efficient Xeon 3000 sequence procs for small business owners and for the love of deity please work with Promise to deliver an affordable iSCSI NAS/SAN solution.

Apple doesn't have to create the hardware infrastructure they need to partner with some solid companies to deliver the right products. Co-opt the support and R&D.

No blades either. The xServe is a great machine, but it also shows how little Apple's current leadership understands the server market.
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by BenRoethig View Post

On the OS level, OS X server is far superior to windows server. Windows and the Unix/Linux variants are just available in configurations to suit the client instead of the manufacturer.


Not unless there is a change in leadership or Apple actually does buy Sun.



No blades either. The xServe is a great machine, but it also shows how little Apple's current leadership understands the server market.

Hell even Cisco is getting into Blades with Project California.


Hell it's never too late to deliver that Apple homegrown iSCSI initiator.

There's some nice 3rd party iSCSI stuff out there

Thecus N7700 7-Bay w ZFS support

And spec wise my favorite

QNAP TS-809 8 Bay with Core2 Duo procs and iSCSI
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post #23 of 27
Its funny, how this forum is full of people praising OSX server, yet every other one has threads full of admins saying how Leopard server 10.5.0 was of pre-beta quality. Nothing worked in it (except apache), and Apple completely ignored OSX server customer complaints until at least 10.5.3. And yes, I worked at an apple premium reseller, and yes, Apple forum was full of complaints. Last version I tried until I quit, was 10.5.5.

Some VERY common complaints were:
- DNS config gui would screw up the config regularly
- Software update server redownloaded all the data constantly without giving the user feedback costing businesses thousands
- Anything that used kerberos/open directory was intermittant.
- Caldav had so many problems.
- Apple Fax modem caused kernel panics on many xserve's
- RAID didn't work well either.
- Radius could have worked way awesome..... Its a pity it only worked intermittantly. So WPA Enterprise was a no-no.

None were fixed as of 10.5.3, maybe some started working a bit better 10.5.4. But Apple have proven that when push comes to shove, they would rather release server software which is totally buggy to meet deadlines, and focus on fixing bugs on OSX client, before releasing a stable server.

OSX server at the time to me seemed like a godsend, and it would have easily SH** on Windows server, had everything worked. I strongly urge any admin who is considering to set up Snow Leopard server, to wait, a few weeks, and see the feedback in the forums. Because, if history is anything to go by, Snow Leopard server may only be semi-usable by 10.6.5.

I personally, would NEVER set up another OSX server. It cost many of our clients thousands of dollars, and it should have never been released in that condition. It was NOT production ready. In fact, Windows 7 beta is more production ready then Leopard server was (and its due in 10 months)
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

As BenRoethig said a 1U high end server is getting to be a datacenter anathema. I rarely worked on 1U server deals even a couple of years ago. Anyone with serious needs was buying at least a 2U but often 4U quad socket servers for the RAM mating them up to their SAN and using or at least investigating vmware or something like it.

I'm certainly not hating on Apple here. In a way I wish they'd simply create smaller 1U server with some of the more power efficient Xeon 3000 sequence procs for small business owners and for the love of deity please work with Promise to deliver an affordable iSCSI NAS/SAN solution.

Apple doesn't have to create the hardware infrastructure they need to partner with some solid companies to deliver the right products. Co-opt the support and R&D.

Apple hasnt decided what the Xserve is. It's too anemic for the datacenter bread & butters, and with virtualization having taken over, we can buy a 4U server that outperforms 4 Xserves, at a much smaller initial outlay, let alone the ongoing cost of operating 4 servers. But yet it's pathetically expensive for a 1U, given what you get. I guess in a way it's a metaphor for Apple's desktop line, but that's another rant

Also the software is really lacking. There's VMWare Workstation, which is in a class by itself. But on top of that, there's just simple things like utilities--where's BackupExec? Where's the security products? Client compliance/management? For a modern day 1U fileserver, all of these things are staples (except VMWare), but they're not available for Mac OS X Server. Not totally Apple's fault, but there's a definite lack of enthusiasm (when was the Xserve last updated even?)
post #25 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Auzy83 View Post

Its funny, how this forum is full of people praising OSX server, yet every other one has threads full of admins saying how Leopard server 10.5.0 was of pre-beta quality. Nothing worked in it (except apache), and Apple completely ignored OSX server customer complaints until at least 10.5.3.

I think that was Leopard in general. They put most of the Mac OS X team to work on the iPhone, so it ended up being late and very buggy and took a while to correct.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skittlebrau79 View Post

Apple hasnt decided what the Xserve is. It's too anemic for the datacenter bread & butters, and with virtualization having taken over, we can buy a 4U server that outperforms 4 Xserves, at a much smaller initial outlay, let alone the ongoing cost of operating 4 servers. But yet it's pathetically expensive for a 1U, given what you get. I guess in a way it's a metaphor for Apple's desktop line, but that's another rant…

I think they've decided what it is, they just understand the market. Jobs sees things in very simple black and white terms. There's a generic consumer, a generic professional, and a generic enterprise server user.
post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by milles21 View Post

I can't believe I forgot about that one, That has been a big issue for us, I would love to have isci included in snow leopard.

hear hear, I put my vote in for that one as well. Having iSCSI would incline me to extend our Schema & actually move our Mac home folders to an AFP share off our OS X server. We currently use the magic triangle & they sync to a windows share. It works ok but there are a lot of issues with certain file types & Apple doesn't really support the home folder sync to smb.
post #27 of 27
I use 10.4 Server and am generally happy with it. I have tons of Macs and PCs authenticating against my OD Master. But it does have its limitations. For example I cannot let certain non-administrators manage other groups like I could in 10.5.

I stayed away from 10.5 due to the fact that the OpenDirectory database was corruptable in the 10.4.1 and 10.4.2 days. Although this was fixed 10.4.3 I didn't want to go through something like that again with 10.5. Thankfully I read forums and read about some of the horrors of Leopard Server.

I don't know where to take my organization next. I'm kind of leaning toward a Windows Server 2008 solution with the script to add the Open Directory schema into the Active Directory and skip OS X Server all together...except to use the existing Xserves I have as home directory servers. We'll see.
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