updated 06:00 pm EST, Tue November 9, 2010
Educator offers "solution" to XServe loss
An Apple Distinguished Educator and University Executive Forum member, Dave Schroeder of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has penned an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs in reaction to the recent announcement of the ending of XServe sales. In it, Schroeder asks Jobs to extend the 2007 loosening of virtualization rules on OS X Server and allow it to be virtualized on non-Apple hardware. Without such a move, says Schroeder, the loss of the XServe will force a transition away from Apple server technologies, which will have "a significant negative impact on many major campus initiatives which impact your products and services, including iOS mobile development, campus-wide lecture capture with Podcast Producer, our iTunes U presence, our campus IP TV network, and ... critical services to Apple clients that allow those clients to exist alongside other platforms."
Schroeder's letter acknowledges that sales "in sheer units" was a deciding factor in discontinuing the XServe, but points out that small datacenters of XServes often support "hundreds and thousands" of customers. He also makes mention of Apple's response (later deleted) that other server technologies or software like the XSan or OS X Server are not affected by the XServe decision. But because datacenters have to plan far in advance for their future needs, any dropping of support on a particular product like the XServe forces an immediate reconsideration of support for Mac OS X Server, since it currently cannot be run on non-Apple hardware.
"We and many other organizations already have a virtualization environment which can take any Intel-based operating system -- except Mac OS X Server" writes Schroeder. "All that is needed to allow the next version Mac OS X Server to run in this environment is a license change, and minor technical changes."
"Without server-class hardware or the ability to run in our enterprise virtualization environment," he continues, "we lose the ability to run Mac OS X Server in our datacenter environment in any form."
Schroeder also argues that XServes cannot really be fully replaced by other machines, even the recent addition of a new server configuration of the Mac Pro. "While it is possible to rack mount a Mac Pro with third-party hardware," he continues, "it is a non-starter because of the lack of dual redundant power supplies, management capabilities, and spare parts kits, to say nothing of space considerations."
Schroeder reminds Jobs in the letter that he has spoken to the CEO and to Apple Vice President of Software Technology Guy "Bud" Tribble on previous occasions and that the need for virtualization was critical and growing rapidly. Schroeder proposes what he calls a simple solution to the issue: "Apple should allow the virtualization of OS X Server in non-Apple virtualization environments, with a commensurate license and pricing model."
"Steve, Apple may not be an enterprise company, but Apple has long been an education company," Schroeder concludes. "As I look around campus now, this is clearer than ever. Today, many academic institutions have mirrored successful and established enterprise practices to provide robust, supportable, and cost-effective IT solutions. This means that running Mac OS X Server on a Mac Pro or Mac mini is not an option at an enterprise level. Virtualization is an option, and it doesn't require Apple to develop or support any hardware. Please allow us to keep supporting your users."