There has recently been a few stories in the press about Apple’s increasing presence in the server space and support from more ISVs. I love seeing it, I’ve long held the opinion that Apple sell both excellent hardware and excellent server software.
For small groups the Power Mac is an excellent piece of hardware with a good ability to add both expansion cards if you need fancy I/O or extra ports or add extra drives for more storage. Then for larger groups the X Serve is brilliant hardware at a good price – I’ve heard people complain about the price but try getting similar hardware from Sun or even Dell or HP.
Then there’s the software. Here OS X Server really stands out. When it comes to server software in the enterprise it’s all about two things – management and service integration. The management software provided is key – how easy it is to use, how many of the services are integrated and how easy it is to step outside the controlled bounds without breaking the management system. On all these OS X Server scores highly.
It is hard to know if the final advantage of OS X Server is by Apple’s design or just the accident of using a large number of open source products in building the core. OS X Server plays nicely with others. The major reason I threw out a Windows file and mail server in one place I was workig was the difficulty in getting ti to live in a mixed environment and to use the mail, calendar and other data out of Exchange Server into other systems – with Windows you pretty much have to use Microsoft client software. OS X Server uses open and standard protocols and file formats. It also provides a platform fairly close to other Unix systems when you want to add other software. If you want to know true pain try using Active Directory running on Windows for authorising services on other platforms or even Windows services away from Microsoft products. The only way I ever got it working was to use a Mac running Open Directory to grab the data off Windows and publish it out via LDAP.
Windows gains an advantage in the server space by being the being the big elephant. That is the only advantage it has over any other server software and Sun, a number of Linux vendors and Apple are chipping away at that advantage. OS X Server is the best server system for medium sized business, without a doubt. It is reliable, reasonably priced and easily managed. I’m not surprised that Apple is gaining customers in the server space.