China's Inspur rumored to be joining Apple server supply chain

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in iCloud
A Chinese server vendor, Inspur, has allegedly joined Apple's datacenter supply chain, as the iPhone maker continues to work toward bringing more of its cloud services in-house.

An Apple datacenter in Maiden, North Carolina.
An Apple datacenter in Maiden, North Carolina.


Inspur is backed by the Chinese government, and a major player in the country's internet service server market, as noted by DigiTimes. Some of the company's existing clients are said to include Alibaba, Baidu, Microsoft, IBM, VMware, and Red Hat.

The firm also established an office in Apple's home state of California last year, including production, research, and development functions.

Despite owning data centers in places like North Carolina, Apple is still dependent on outside parties like Amazon and Microsoft for some of its cloud infrastructure. The company is moving towards self-sufficient infrastructure in an effort known as "Project McQueen," including purchases of land in Hong Kong and mainland China, which should house future datacenters.

The switch may make more financial sense for Apple than investing in third parties, but the company is also thought be worried about potential backdoors inserted somewhere along the supply chain, something that could be helped by exerting more control. Snooping could, however, still be a concern with a firm like Inspur, since the Chinese government regularly intercepts internet traffic.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,309member
    Perhaps they'd only be supplying non-critical components...like cases?
  • Reply 2 of 19
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,790member
    I thought Apple was working on Its own servers to prevent backdoors. Why would they have anything to do with a Chinese manufacturer that's partly owned by the government? It seems odd.

    but maybe this would only be for servers in China. The Chinese government has stated last year, that all information about Chinese citizens, and I suppose, really, all traffic, needs to remain in China, somewhat like the EU has come up with in a new law. One might say, as these governments have said, that it's to prevent information about their people from ending up where it shouldn't be, out of the country.

    but the real reason is that it's easier to monitor that information when the servers are physically within the territory. An additional reason is that, this way, if they want to, they can simply seize the server farms physically. They can't do that at all if they reside outside of their territory.

    in that case, it doesn't matter where the servers come from.
    edited April 2016 caliSpamSandwich
  • Reply 3 of 19
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,151member
    Perhaps they'd only be supplying non-critical components...like cases?
    Ben Thompson discussed Apple and the cloud on one of his recent podcasts. He doesn't agree with Apple bringing it all in house and thinks Apple should either buy Dropbox and keep it as a subsidiary or partner with Microsoft. I agree. It's one thing to control the entire widget with respect to devices but the cloud isn't Apple's strength so why not partner with someone who is strong in that area? Then Apple can focus on improving the services on top of the cloud. 
  • Reply 4 of 19
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 324member
    No security concerns here.
  • Reply 5 of 19
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,790member
    Perhaps they'd only be supplying non-critical components...like cases?
    Ben Thompson discussed Apple and the cloud on one of his recent podcasts. He doesn't agree with Apple bringing it all in house and thinks Apple should either buy Dropbox and keep it as a subsidiary or partner with Microsoft. I agree. It's one thing to control the entire widget with respect to devices but the cloud isn't Apple's strength so why not partner with someone who is strong in that area? Then Apple can focus on improving the services on top of the cloud. 
    Unlike Amazon, Alphabet, IBM, Microsoft and others, Apple isn't interested in building a general purpose cloud—yet. Apple's cloud is just for the use of their own customers, and isn't even general purpose for them either—yet.

    it makes sense. One complaint they have been having with Amazon, is that their cloud is too slow. Apple also has been using Azure, and they're moving at least some functions from Amazon.

    apple once before tried to buy Dropbox, and was spurned. I don't know what makes Thompson think it would go any better now, and Dropbox would be far more expensive at this point, and we know how Apple feels about expensive purchases. It would cost them less to built out by themselves. They can always hire the experienced people they need.
    patchythepirate
  • Reply 6 of 19
    karmadavekarmadave Posts: 322member
    melgross said:
    Why would they have anything to do with a Chinese manufacturer that's partly owned by the government? It seems odd.
    ALL servers are built in Chinese factories. Basically, the entire manufacturing supply chain was off-shored to China a few years ago.

    ALL iPhones are currently built in Chinese factories and Apple doesn't seem to be too concerned that the Chinese Gov't will install backdoors...
  • Reply 7 of 19
    bcodebcode Posts: 139member
    Perhaps they'd only be supplying non-critical components...like cases?
    Ben Thompson discussed Apple and the cloud on one of his recent podcasts. He doesn't agree with Apple bringing it all in house and thinks Apple should either buy Dropbox and keep it as a subsidiary or partner with Microsoft. I agree. It's one thing to control the entire widget with respect to devices but the cloud isn't Apple's strength so why not partner with someone who is strong in that area? Then Apple can focus on improving the services on top of the cloud. 

    Those are likely all the reasons Apple didn't move forward with their own data centres in the past. The recent "War on Encryption" though, seems to have changed their tune... Regardless of the challenges that lay ahead, the only way to control your own data is to have complete control of it. MS was forced to "sell the farm" to the NSA years ago, and Apple knows it.

    I would assume they are using Inspur's services only for their chinese customers, who's data is intercepted by the Chinese government anyway.
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 8 of 19
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,860member
    Perhaps they'd only be supplying non-critical components...like cases?
    Ben Thompson discussed Apple and the cloud on one of his recent podcasts. He doesn't agree with Apple bringing it all in house and thinks Apple should either buy Dropbox and keep it as a subsidiary or partner with Microsoft. I agree. It's one thing to control the entire widget with respect to devices but the cloud isn't Apple's strength so why not partner with someone who is strong in that area? Then Apple can focus on improving the services on top of the cloud. 
    It probably depends upon what is meant by "in house". My understanding is that a good portion of the infrastructure they would be looking at is Linux based, if so then it is likely they would partner for hardware. Frankly I disagree with your in respect to MicroSoft, partnering with them would be a terrible idea. Microsoft for one is not really making good progress with its web solutions but the bigger problem is that MS an Apple have different goals that would conflict with each other. Frankly they would be better off going with IBM. The interesting thing here is that IBM is all in with Swift and is putting a huge amount of energy into infrastructure for a Swift based web solution. We could potentially see a whole new generation of software to support the web. Actually potentially isn't the right word, we will see a new generation of software as IBM already has a bunch of stuff on line now. All that is really needed is a bit of stabilization. IBM's efforts for the most part are open sourced so Apple does not need to fully partner with IBM. I really think there are good technical arguments for Apple to go its own way. Control over the software stack being the big one.
    cali
  • Reply 9 of 19
    mtbnutmtbnut Posts: 195member
    Perhaps they'd only be supplying non-critical components...like cases?
    Haha, that's what I was thinking. 

    Wasn't there just an article about the wariness of American companies buying foreign servers due to stealth components soldered on the boards that connect directly to the Chinese NSA? 

    Seems fishy to me that Apple would be going down this route, unless they're going to build a special facility that tests every server like the one HAL uses to troubleshoot the AE-35 gyro unit. 
  • Reply 10 of 19
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,790member
    karmadave said:
    melgross said:
    Why would they have anything to do with a Chinese manufacturer that's partly owned by the government? It seems odd.
    ALL servers are built in Chinese factories. Basically, the entire manufacturing supply chain was off-shored to China a few years ago.

    ALL iPhones are currently built in Chinese factories and Apple doesn't seem to be too concerned that the Chinese Gov't will install backdoors...
    That's not true. Have you any evidence that ALL servers are built in China? Besides, thats not the point. Apple, and other companies that design their own products, know exactly what's in these products, and can test them any way they like. If they find something odd about them,mthey can, and will find out.

    but BUYING servers from an outside company is different. There is no guarantee that they would be able to tell is something was wrong.
  • Reply 11 of 19
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,790member

    wizard69 said:
    Ben Thompson discussed Apple and the cloud on one of his recent podcasts. He doesn't agree with Apple bringing it all in house and thinks Apple should either buy Dropbox and keep it as a subsidiary or partner with Microsoft. I agree. It's one thing to control the entire widget with respect to devices but the cloud isn't Apple's strength so why not partner with someone who is strong in that area? Then Apple can focus on improving the services on top of the cloud. 
    It probably depends upon what is meant by "in house". My understanding is that a good portion of the infrastructure they would be looking at is Linux based, if so then it is likely they would partner for hardware. Frankly I disagree with your in respect to MicroSoft, partnering with them would be a terrible idea. Microsoft for one is not really making good progress with its web solutions but the bigger problem is that MS an Apple have different goals that would conflict with each other. Frankly they would be better off going with IBM. The interesting thing here is that IBM is all in with Swift and is putting a huge amount of energy into infrastructure for a Swift based web solution. We could potentially see a whole new generation of software to support the web. Actually potentially isn't the right word, we will see a new generation of software as IBM already has a bunch of stuff on line now. All that is really needed is a bit of stabilization. IBM's efforts for the most part are open sourced so Apple does not need to fully partner with IBM. I really think there are good technical arguments for Apple to go its own way. Control over the software stack being the big one.
    Apple has been using Microsoft's Azure for some time, but not for everything, as they have split their business among several companies. They are moving more work from Amazon to Azure as we are writing this.
  • Reply 12 of 19
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    wizard69 said:

    My understanding is that a good portion of the infrastructure they would be looking at is Linux based, if so then it is likely they would partner for hardware. 
    Do you have any links? I would like to read up on what is known about Apple's data center deployments. I run all Linux servers which I build myself using mostly Supermicro boards. If Apple was to bring their server hardware in house perhaps they should look at buying Supermicro. As far as I know they build their boards in USA, Taiwan and Netherlands, not in China. I like Linux for servers, mostly because I am familiar with it. I use CentOS which is a generic version of Red Hat. I wonder if Apple would prefer a Linux distro over their own OS X Server. It is certified UNIX but they do have significant differences to standard Linux. Mostly just where core files are located and in terms of Apple protocols they officially discourage our tried and true command line management to their OS X server management suite. Anyway I think Supermicro would be a great acquisition, and maybe could lead to Apple getting back into the server hardware business, not that I would buy them as I prefer to build my own. BTW I hate 1U chassis. I always use 2U so I can have lots of high quality fans.
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 13 of 19
    Apple is likely building the server farm in China in order to satisfy the conditions of the local Chinese government. But it may also be a hedge against the NSA demanding access to Apple's servers if much of the data is located off shore and in China. 

    The big question is whether Apple designs its own ARM based server chip or purchases chips from Intel over the long term. 

    With apple's own CPU design team, TSMC's manufacturing prowess including their plans for developing a high performance 7 nm node and a potentially far lower cost, it would seem that Apple has all the pieces to produce their own high performance server chip, especially for use in their own data center. 

    Time will tell. 
  • Reply 14 of 19
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,675member
    karmadave said:

    ALL iPhones are currently built in Chinese factories and Apple doesn't seem to be too concerned that the Chinese Gov't will install backdoors...

    It's unfortunate that the Internet allows conspiracy theorists and tin-foil-wearing crackpots a podium to spew their nonsense.
  • Reply 15 of 19
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    volcan said:
    wizard69 said:

    My understanding is that a good portion of the infrastructure they would be looking at is Linux based, if so then it is likely they would partner for hardware. 
    Do you have any links? I would like to read up on what is known about Apple's data center deployments. I run all Linux servers which I build myself using mostly Supermicro boards. If Apple was to bring their server hardware in house perhaps they should look at buying Supermicro. As far as I know they build their boards in USA, Taiwan and Netherlands, not in China. I like Linux for servers, mostly because I am familiar with it. I use CentOS which is a generic version of Red Hat. I wonder if Apple would prefer a Linux distro over their own OS X Server. It is certified UNIX but they do have significant differences to standard Linux. Mostly just where core files are located and in terms of Apple protocols they officially discourage our tried and true command line management to their OS X server management suite. Anyway I think Supermicro would be a great acquisition, and maybe could lead to Apple getting back into the server hardware business, not that I would buy them as I prefer to build my own. BTW I hate 1U chassis. I always use 2U so I can have lots of high quality fans.
    Well, it's not like Linux because it's based on BSD (with a bit of Solaris). BSD (and it's derivatives), is perfectly fine for servers.

  • Reply 16 of 19
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,151member
    wizard69 said:
    Ben Thompson discussed Apple and the cloud on one of his recent podcasts. He doesn't agree with Apple bringing it all in house and thinks Apple should either buy Dropbox and keep it as a subsidiary or partner with Microsoft. I agree. It's one thing to control the entire widget with respect to devices but the cloud isn't Apple's strength so why not partner with someone who is strong in that area? Then Apple can focus on improving the services on top of the cloud. 
    It probably depends upon what is meant by "in house". My understanding is that a good portion of the infrastructure they would be looking at is Linux based, if so then it is likely they would partner for hardware. Frankly I disagree with your in respect to MicroSoft, partnering with them would be a terrible idea. Microsoft for one is not really making good progress with its web solutions but the bigger problem is that MS an Apple have different goals that would conflict with each other. Frankly they would be better off going with IBM. The interesting thing here is that IBM is all in with Swift and is putting a huge amount of energy into infrastructure for a Swift based web solution. We could potentially see a whole new generation of software to support the web. Actually potentially isn't the right word, we will see a new generation of software as IBM already has a bunch of stuff on line now. All that is really needed is a bit of stabilization. IBM's efforts for the most part are open sourced so Apple does not need to fully partner with IBM. I really think there are good technical arguments for Apple to go its own way. Control over the software stack being the big one.
    Honestly I don't care who, this is one area where I don't think Apple needs to do everything itself. Focus on what it's good at and leave the cloud to others who are much better at it.
  • Reply 17 of 19
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    foggyhill said:

    Well, it's not like Linux because it's based on BSD (with a bit of Solaris). BSD (and it's derivatives), is perfectly fine for servers.

    Probably why OS X server never caught on. Outside of academia almost no one was using BSD. At the time when SJ was building NeXt Free BSD was probably one of  he only open source UNIX platforms available.

    In modern commercial server environments it is all Linux. I have a  friend  who works at a 300,000 sq ft data center who tells me it is about 60% Windows and 40% Linux. Virtually 0 BSD and 0 OS X, hence the talent pool is very low to nonexistent which explains why almost no one decides to invest in those platforms even though technically they are viable. At the data center there is one guy that has a cabinet packed with Mac minis which are pretty much exclusively hosting church websites.

    i met him when there was a major upgrade to the power distribution and UPS system and all the colo people had to be there to restart their systems after the upgrade. It was sort of a party atmosphere and even though cameras are prohibited it was like 3 o'clock in the morning and everyone was taking selfies with their cube mates who they had never met before..
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 18 of 19
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,790member
    volcan said:
    foggyhill said:

    Well, it's not like Linux because it's based on BSD (with a bit of Solaris). BSD (and it's derivatives), is perfectly fine for servers.

    Probably why OS X server never caught on. Outside of academia almost no one was using BSD. At the time when SJ was building NeXt Free BSD was probably one of  he only open source UNIX platforms available.

    In modern commercial server environments it is all Linux. I have a  friend  who works at a 300,000 sq ft data center who tells me it is about 60% Windows and 40% Linux. Virtually 0 BSD and 0 OS X, hence the talent pool is very low to nonexistent which explains why almost no one decides to invest in those platforms even though technically they are viable. At the data center there is one guy that has a cabinet packed with Mac minis which are pretty much exclusively hosting church websites.

    i met him when there was a major upgrade to the power distribution and UPS system and all the colo people had to be there to restart their systems after the upgrade. It was sort of a party atmosphere and even though cameras are prohibited it was like 3 o'clock in the morning and everyone was taking selfies with their cube mates who they had never met before..
    One of the biggest reasons the server business died was because of Apple's stubborn refusal to come up with blades and double and quad height units. There was nowhere to upgrade to when more powerful models were needed. So it because an also-ran, even thought they were popular in the beginning.

    this has been a problem with Apple ever since I've been involved with them in the late 1980's. They would come up with some hot product, and sit on it for ages.
  • Reply 19 of 19
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    melgross said:

    One of the biggest reasons the server business died was because of Apple's stubborn refusal to come up with blades and double and quad height units. There was nowhere to upgrade to when more powerful models were needed. So it because an also-ran, even thought they were popular in the beginning.
    I don't like 1U cases. With 2U you can have more and better fans, better heat sinks too. I really don't think it was the form factor that made them unpopular though. They still had dual Xeons and high RAM capacity. In my opinion it was entirely a matter of the OS not being as IT friendly. You were supposed to manage them from a networked Mac with a management application. Data center NOCs don't usually have Macs. You were not supposed to manage them with SSH like we do with Linux. They just didn't fit the data center workflow. They worked out okay in a small office environment, but there just aren't that many offices that are primarily Mac based.
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