Why an Apple Server makes sense

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015

There are a lot of noises about Apple ditching Intel and moving to a full ARM based architecture in their Mac line up. However, it is probably debatable if this is a safe decision for Apple to do. There are still many advantages with sticking to Intel on Macs - notably the ability to dual boot Windows.

 

However, there is one space in which Apple can safely switch to ARM without causing any confusion, cannibalization, etc. And that is in the Server space. It is easy for Apple to launch a low cost Apple Server that is similar to the Apple TV - except that it will have no HDMI port, no Wireless, no Bluetooth, etc. Instead, up the Flash to 128GB and the RAM to 4GB. By eliminating all the wireless and graphics related hardware, the machine becomes very cheap and consumes even lesser power. In any case, Flash and Memory are critical.

 

For many years, the world was moving into a model where servers got consolidated at the physical level with larger and larger servers, while they were getting broken down into smaller and smaller virtual machines at the logical level. Today however, the model is starting to change - people are beginning to realize that server consolidation is like putting all eggs in one basket - with huge implications if there is failure on any part. Plus there was this thinking that consolidating hardware would reduce the power needs of servers. But today, ARM is a much cheaper way to achieve the same goals.

 

It is easy for Apple to create a Mac Server Store where people can download software servers that can be easily configured, with a web based interface.

 

Because there is no graphics hardware, there is no chance of these low cost machines being cannibalized as cheap Macs. At the same time, Apple can leverage the GPU on the latest A-series processors to speed up general purpose computing using Metal.

 

My belief is that Apple can easily build a $200 server that would be an Octacore A8 class CPU, with Octacore GPU, 4 GB RAM, 128GB flash, and dual RJ-45 Gigabit ports. Running a full MacOS, without any of the Graphics, Animations, Sound, Wireless, Bluetooth, etc. Completely managed using a Web interface. With a power consumption in single digit watts at full load. No fan, using passive heat dissipation. With a small battery integrated in the case itself, so that there is no need for expensive Battery Backup.

 

If you take this thinking forward, Apple can come up with low power storage solutions, networking solutions, etc, all with the battery capacity needed for an hour backup in an emergency. This should allow a much lower cost data center, without air conditioning, without power backup, etc.

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