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Apple almost ready with Nehalem-based Xserves

post #1 of 25
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Apple in the coming weeks is expected to introduce a new line of its 1U rack-mount server computers that have been updated to take advantage of Intel's new Nehalem architecture.

The systems are expected to use chips from same family of "Gainestown" Xeon 5500 and "Bloomfield" Xeon 3500 series of processors that the Cupertino-based company adopted for its latest line of Mac Pro workstations earlier this month.

According to people familiar with the matter, the Mac maker was the only major PC vendor to introduce systems based on the chips ahead of their formal introduction this Monday because the Mac Pro is a low volume product whose launch could be facilitated with the smaller quantities of the new Xeon parts that were available from Intel at the time.

Also helping matters was the company's close relationship with Santa Clara-based chipmaker, as well as looser testing and validation requirements for the Mac Pro workstation product when compared to server-grade hardware like the Xserve, which sports a different system design.

As is the case with the new Mac Pro, Apple has been offering its Xserves in either single quad-core configurations (2.8GHz) or dual quad-core configurations (2.8GHz & 3.0GHz) since they were last updated to Intel "Harpertown" processors in January of 2008. (The prior generation Mac Pros also utilized Harpertown chips.)

New models, should they follow the same configuration format, would therefore include a single processor model capable of accepting 2.66GHz, 2.93GHz, and 3.2GHz quad-core Bloomfield chips and a dual-pocessor model that would take two 2.26GHz, 2.66GHz, 2.8GHz, or 2.93GHz quad-core Gainestown chips.

"Gainestown" is also available in 2.4GHz, 2.53GHz, and 3.2GHz variants, though Apple has expressed little interest in these parts thus far.

For its part, Intel is touting the new family of Xeons as its "most revolutionary server processors since targeting the market with the Intel Pentium Pro processor nearly 15 years ago." Among their features are dramatic leaps in power efficiency, which stands as the next frontier in the highly competitive server market.



Specifically, the chips promise a processor idle power level of only 10 watts, which Intel says should enable a 50 percent reduction in system idle power compared to the previous generation. New integrated power gates, based on the chipmaker's high-k metal gate technology, also allow idle cores to power down independently.

Capgemini, one of the world's largest business and IT consultancy firms, recently evaluated the new Gainestown chips to test Intel's performance per Watt claims and see if the new chips could really help their clients reduce their energy consumption costs.

The firm noticed "an enormous performance increase up to 500%, while the power usage dropped a staggering 65%." It said queries to a Microsoft SQL database took just ten seconds, compared to three minutes on a previous generation Intel Xeon processor. Even older applications that were not designed for multi-core processors benefitted significantly from the new chips. For example, the time for login sequences dropped from 40 seconds to just five.



Other specific feature enhancements of the new Xeons include Turbo Boost, which delivers performance on demand, letting processors operate above the rated frequency to speed specific workloads and reduce power consumption during low utilization periods; Hyper-Threading, which benefits from larger caches and massive memory bandwidth, delivering greater throughput and responsiveness for multi-threaded applications; and QuickPath technology with Intel's integrated memory controller, which speed traffic between processors and I/O controllers for bandwidth-intensive applications.

Recent weeks have seen Apple push out lead times for Xserves through its online store by as much as 1 to 2 weeks (Google cache), indicating that production of current models has ceased. Earlier this week, lead times were reduced to 5 to 7 business days, suggesting an announcement may come as early as next week.

In the meantime, customers who place orders for an Xserve are being told by Apple Store representatives that delivery of their system is going to take a bit longer than usual, as new models are internally rumored to make their way to market in the "next week or two." At this time, those customers who had placed orders will see their orders canceled, modified, or upgraded to one of the new offerings, those representatives said.
post #2 of 25
Sounds good. I look forward to them.
post #3 of 25
Do any major companies actually use X-Serves in quantity? I figured they'd still be useful for running Windows OS-based products in Virtual Machines. I guess no major companies will be using OSX Server, though. I'm only asking since I don't really have much information to go on. I suppose the usual Apple price premium still applies which would decrease the likelihood of corporations buying Apple equipment.

In weak economic times I wouldn't imagine many companies changing over to Apple servers when their current equipment will do.
post #4 of 25
I didn't expect the X-Serve to get updated. I'm surprised Apple doesn't really have a "server strategy". Can anybody comment on OSX Server actually being easier to work with than Linux? (Everything I have read suggests that it is just a pretty wrapper for BSD.)

That said, X-Serves are fairly reasonable on pricing for a server-class machine. I would have bought a few for our company if it looked like it could actually do everything that we use Linux for now.
post #5 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

Do any major companies actually use X-Serves in quantity? I figured they'd still be useful for running Windows OS-based products in Virtual Machines. I guess no major companies will be using OSX Server, though. I'm only asking since I don't really have much information to go on. I suppose the usual Apple price premium still applies which would decrease the likelihood of corporations buying Apple equipment.

In weak economic times I wouldn't imagine many companies changing over to Apple servers when their current equipment will do.

A 1U server isn't cutting it for VM environments. The popular VM server configs are 4 socket servers with SAN attach or Blade systems with SAN attach.

Apple's Xserve is a solid SMB server though I think the price needs to come down so that a decent model can be had for $2k including say a 10-20 user license.
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post #6 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

Do any major companies actually use X-Serves in quantity? I figured they'd still be useful for running Windows OS-based products in Virtual Machines. I guess no major companies will be using OSX Server, though. I'm only asking since I don't really have much information to go on. I suppose the usual Apple price premium still applies which would decrease the likelihood of corporations buying Apple equipment.

In weak economic times I wouldn't imagine many companies changing over to Apple servers when their current equipment will do.

Here you go:
http://www.apple.com/business/profiles/

The MGM in Vegas used to have a page profiling their use of Macs and Xserves. I don't think companies upgrade their server hardware whenever new products arrive.
post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

Do any major companies actually use X-Serves in quantity? I figured they'd still be useful for running Windows OS-based products in Virtual Machines. I guess no major companies will be using OSX Server, though. I'm only asking since I don't really have much information to go on. I suppose the usual Apple price premium still applies which would decrease the likelihood of corporations buying Apple equipment.

In weak economic times I wouldn't imagine many companies changing over to Apple servers when their current equipment will do.

5 years ago at my last company I looked into the Apple XServe with their RAID solution (no longer sold). It was, by far, the top contender in price per megabyte/performance and in supportability. I sent the recommendation to IT. A couple months later they came back with a whiz-bang new NetApp that costed 5x as much and required a lot more support. Admittedly it had lots of extra performance (we didn't need) and lots of extra features (we didn't use). At least at the time getting Apple into an IT department was a daunting proposition.
post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

I didn't expect the X-Serve to get updated. I'm surprised Apple doesn't really have a "server strategy". Can anybody comment on OSX Server actually being easier to work with than Linux? (Everything I have read suggests that it is just a pretty wrapper for BSD.)

That said, X-Serves are fairly reasonable on pricing for a server-class machine. I would have bought a few for our company if it looked like it could actually do everything that we use Linux for now.

OS X server is definitely easier to use than Linux and I say this not from experience in setting it up but rather going through the PDFs. It doesn't do as much as a Linux server but it is a platform that can be setup fairly easily by non IT staff. It's not a wrapper for BSD but rather it leverage Open source apps to good effect. LDAP and Wiki and more. I think they'd have a killer SMB product if they delivered a $2k Xserve with 20 CALS and the ability to add more.

Especially now that Apple has the iPhone they have a solid foundation for delivering Push email from the server for even the smallest of companies.

Apple should forget the Enterprise. The money and numbers are with the lucrative SMB market.
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post #9 of 25
So from a use standpoint...

If I have all of my music, movies, photos digitially stored and want to access them from a few different desktops, a laptop, and a couple of flat screens through the house would I be better off setting up an xserve with loads of storage capacity or just run the Mac Mini route with some solid server grade externals. I'd also like to tie in to a home sound system if possible.

Whichever I do I'd have the server machine in the basement with the storage drives and wifi router. I'm not real familiar with the xdrive though and had just figured I'd go the Mini route.
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post #10 of 25
I used to work with a company which had 2 Xserves (the original G4 model). Great servers. They're still using them. At some point we added a Sun SunFire V40. Though more stable, the Sun was not as fast. If you don't know anything about Linux or Unix, the Xserve is a good choice and easy to manage. I would not recommend it for third-party apps though. We used to run Xinet FullPress and we ran into some big problems at some point and both Apple and Xinet would blame the other for the instability.
post #11 of 25
Apple has never really targeted enterprise with the Xserve. They targeted their pre-existing markets of SMB, creative industries, science, and education. They seem to be doing reasonably well in those categories.

A $2,000 low-end Xserve with some limitations would be pretty welcomed by me. Most of my clients are running Tiger Server on first-generation PowerMac G5s, serving the needs of 15-30 users each.
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tokolosh View Post

So from a use standpoint...

Whichever I do I'd have the server machine in the basement with the storage drives and wifi router. I'm not real familiar with the xdrive though and had just figured I'd go the Mini route.

Xserve would be overkill. A solid NAS device would be nice for storing your media files. A mini would work as well by leveraging the Bonjour sharing features of OS X.
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post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShawnScott View Post

I used to work with a company which had 2 Xserves (the original G4 model). Great servers. They're still using them. At some point we added a Sun SunFire V40. Though more stable, the Sun was not as fast.

I don't know what you were using the V40 for (AFS?) or whether you had it configured with 2 slow CPUs or 4 fast ones (all AMD with on-chip memory controllers), but for almost any purpose and even in its minimal configuration, the V40 should have knocked the socks off a G4 Xserve. Yes, and be more stable, too.
post #14 of 25
Some of this info is from Intels' new posting of their specs.

It's interesting to note that servers have chipsets capable of using 18 memory slots per dual config, and 9 per single. According to the info above, and in their charts, posed below, a workstation can take 12 slots, or 6, depending on dual or single cpu.

But, what's this shows, and as Intel says explicitly, the servers take 8 GB DIMMS, available now at outrageous prices (to us, that is, not to those who actually need them) thereby giving the 144 GB RAM capacity.

BUT, despite the workstation chipset only allowing 12 DIMM slots, they can take a whopping 192 GB of RAM, because they can accept 16 GB DIMMs.

While 8 GB DIMMs are available now, the 16s won't be available until early next year (not that we would buy them anyway at the prices they'll be selling for!).

So, this brings up the interesting question of whether the new XServes will be able to accept the 8 GB DIMMSs.

It also brings up the question of whether the Mac Pros, with their workstation chipsets, will also be able to use the 8, or even the 16 GB DIMMS. I was pretty sure the single cpu model would take the 4s, as we now know they will, but this is even more interesting.

I had also mentioned that most of these chips could take 1333 RAM in addition to the 1066 Apple supplies, and apparently limits even the 1333 DIMMs to, according to a source that told me that.

http://www.intel.com/products/proces...3000/index.htm

http://www.intel.com/products/proces...prod+prod_xeon

Go to the product briefs for detailed info. They are PDFs.

This might be interesting as well.

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/...-server-mettle

By the way, for those complaining about Apple's prices for memory, remember that the Mac Pro, and XServe are industrial machines. Apple certifies their memory in a number of ways.
Here are some prices for RAM for a few other industrial servers or workstations. Note that Memory4less has GOOD prices, and though some here may poo poo Kingston, they are very heavily used in the industrial marketplace:

http://www.memory4less.com/m4l_itemd...temid=27116493

http://www.memory4less.com/m4l_itemd...temid=27069934

http://www.memory4less.com/m4l_itemd...temid=27216300
post #15 of 25
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post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

http://www.apple.com/xserve/

It's FAAAAAAST

LIAR!
post #17 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

http://www.apple.com/xserve/

It's FAAAAAAST

It's the old model. So what joke am I missing here?
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

OS X server is definitely easier to use than Linux and I say this not from experience in setting it up but rather going through the PDFs. It doesn't do as much as a Linux server but it is a platform that can be setup fairly easily by non IT staff. It's not a wrapper for BSD but rather it leverage Open source apps to good effect. LDAP and Wiki and more. I think they'd have a killer SMB product if they delivered a $2k Xserve with 20 CALS and the ability to add more.

Especially now that Apple has the iPhone they have a solid foundation for delivering Push email from the server for even the smallest of companies.

Apple should forget the Enterprise. The money and numbers are with the lucrative SMB market.

I used to agree with you wholeheartedly. Now I start to question if Apple really has the SMB server market in their capabilities.

I thought my company was the perfect environment for them to succeed-- 20 users, want a software firewall/VPN box, a primary file server, a backup/snapshot file server, and a (asterisk) phone system. E-mail is outsourced. The hardware needs aren't anything that complicated, and bringing a secure solution with robust, reliable hardware, with software that is easy to use and configure.

Then reality sets in. Apple isn't going to make things any easier than using Linux for us. (How much easier can the Apple GUI be than the Linux one (or Webmin)? Does it support more functions natively; when the GUI doesn't support something can you work with the native config files still? It seemed like it failed on both counts.

Apple could easily make money in this market with pre-configured servers with appropriate virtual machines to separate firewall from the local network and a PCI slot big enough to handle a dual-T1 card for external phone channel banks. Great backup tools, and enough access to the machine that you can tweak it to meet your unique needs. Eventually, when a business has a need for a redundant server, you make a solution that just plugs right in...

But alas... while you can pay for the hardware and get software that does almost everything, it still isn't quite there.
post #19 of 25
Oops

Apple fooled me with the "New"

Much like restaurants that leave their "Grand Opening" signs up too long Apple hoodwinked me.
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post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

But alas... while you can pay for the hardware and get software that does almost everything, it still isn't quite there.

I know...how they can pass up such a grand opportunity is beyond me. How hard would it be to partner with a few reputable companies and cover most of the pillars of business.

Apple:

Choose 3 Telecom vendors to partner with.

Buy a software company that does storage managment and develop low cost unified NAS/SAN hardware via iSCSI and Fibre Channel on the high end. For chrissakes the hardware is commodity now.

Choose 3 security vendors to partner with.

Choose 3 networking partners to partner with.

You don't have to align with the Cisco and IBM of the world here. We're talking about decent but smaller company like Sonicwall or Fortinet. You can't swing a dead cat and not hit 10 storage startups that want to sell themselves and their IP to you.

The Xserve is selling but it's a hard justification for companies that already run Windows/Linux heterogeneous networks to add an Apple server to the mix in some cases.
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post #21 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Oops

Apple fooled me with the "New"

Much like restaurants that leave their "Grand Opening" signs up too long Apple hoodwinked me.

I get it. It's only been recently that they took the "new" off the app store link.
post #22 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

I know...how they can pass up such a grand opportunity is beyond me. How hard would it be to partner with a few reputable companies and cover most of the pillars of business.

Apple:

Choose 3 Telecom vendors to partner with.

Buy a software company that does storage managment and develop low cost unified NAS/SAN hardware via iSCSI and Fibre Channel on the high end. For chrissakes the hardware is commodity now.

Choose 3 security vendors to partner with.

Choose 3 networking partners to partner with.

You don't have to align with the Cisco and IBM of the world here. We're talking about decent but smaller company like Sonicwall or Fortinet. You can't swing a dead cat and not hit 10 storage startups that want to sell themselves and their IP to you.

The Xserve is selling but it's a hard justification for companies that already run Windows/Linux heterogeneous networks to add an Apple server to the mix in some cases.

I still think they should have bought Sun. Sun's been shopping around for a buyer. Now that window may be closing.
post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

I still think they should have bought Sun. Sun's been shopping around for a buyer. Now that window may be closing.



I remember threads here arguing that Sun should buy Apple. How times change.

The main reason for the Xserve's existence is so that SMBs with a lot of Macs can have a friendly, compatible, server platform that's as easy and familiar to set up and maintain as their other Macs are.

Other companies do use Xserves, as they offer a pretty good bang for the buck, but Apple isn't targeting the enterprise market with Xserve or for that matter with anything else.

As for sharing music and videos and photos, I just bought a bare hard drive, slapped it in a USB/Firewire external drive case, and plugged it into my AirPort Extreme. Cheaper than a mini, and far less expensive than an Xserve. To use, just tell iTunes and iPhoto that their libraries are located on the network drive.
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post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amorph View Post



I remember threads here arguing that Sun should buy Apple. How times change.

The main reason for the Xserve's existence is so that SMBs with a lot of Macs can have a friendly, compatible, server platform that's as easy and familiar to set up and maintain as their other Macs are.

Other companies do use Xserves, as they offer a pretty good bang for the buck, but Apple isn't targeting the enterprise market with Xserve or for that matter with anything else.

As for sharing music and videos and photos, I just bought a bare hard drive, slapped it in a USB/Firewire external drive case, and plugged it into my AirPort Extreme. Cheaper than a mini, and far less expensive than an Xserve. To use, just tell iTunes and iPhoto that their libraries are located on the network drive.

I've been saying that for years.

Both Solaris and OS X are based on FreeBESD. Both either use, or are moving to, ZFS. Both now are on x86. Both have brilliant software departments. A lot of people in Sun use Macs.

Apple serves the low end server and workstation market, and consumer markets. Sun starts at the low end server and workstation markets and moves all the way up to the high end.

Apple has little in the way of an enterprise sales and service sector, while that's exactly what Sun is.

Sun's problems now are less related to how poorly they're executing, than it is with the fact that their competitors are much more broadly based than they are, and therefor have much greater sales overall, with the concurrent financial depth that Sun lacks. Right now, Sun is the last major server/workstation vendor left. It's a tough position to be in.

If they were purchased by Apple, and Sun goes for just a few billion right now, Apple could supply that sales and financial investment that Sun needs.

I could see them integrating the OS's over a two year period on the server side, then in another year, in the workstation/client (that's us!) side. This could easily preserve the interoperability of both companies software.

It would give Apple the enterprise and government sales they need to grow in a more reliable way, partly insulated from consumer fads.

It would finally give MS a serious competitor.

Of course, I also dream of Apple and Google merging, along with the purchase of Sun. Sigh!!!
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post

Do any major companies actually use X-Serves in quantity? I figured they'd still be useful for running Windows OS-based products in Virtual Machines. I guess no major companies will be using OSX Server, though. I'm only asking since I don't really have much information to go on. I suppose the usual Apple price premium still applies which would decrease the likelihood of corporations buying Apple equipment.

In weak economic times I wouldn't imagine many companies changing over to Apple servers when their current equipment will do.

A company called xTech uses Xserves to do credit card transactions. It was brought up in a WWDC conference back in 2006. Almost every credit card transaction goes through this system. They called it the aquarium as it was all encased in glass with stacks and stacks of Xserves. I'll see if I can find a picture somewhere. I'm not sure if this system is still up and running or not.

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