Apple ‘RAID’s the Enterprise Server Room

Apple Computer Monday continued its push into the Enterprise marketplace with the release of new Xserve hardware as well as updates to its X11 Windowing system.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker announced speed bumps and price cuts to its Xserve rack mount server as well as launching a companion RAID system. Apple said its Xserve 1U rack servers would utilize dual 1.33 GHz PowerPC G4 processors, with up to 2GB of 333 MHz Double Data Rate memory and up to 720 GB of “hot-plug storage.”

The company said it is positioning its new “thin servers” as both a powerful alternative to Linux clusters, and at better prices than Sun Microsystems’ server line.

“Apple did their homework about thin servers, and they got it right,” said IDC research vice president Jean Bozman. “Xserve has all the ease of use that Mac customers expect, plus it has the familiarity and power of UNIX that draws the respect of network administrators who haven’t looked to Apple in years.”

Bozman said IDC has already noticed an uptick in Apple’s server shipments since the Xserve first shipped in July, 2002.

Also, as part of the Apple announcement the company said it is introducing XServe RAID Storage System with 2.5 Terabyte storage capacity with up to 400 MB/s with a price point of just over $4 per gigabyte. Apple’s storage density on the Xserve RAID is comprised of fourteen independent ATA/100 drive channels. Apple says its storage costs are less than Dell, HP, Sun or EMC.

Apple says the Xserve RAID also offers level 5 throughput that supports inexpensive real-time HD 1080i video editing. The units will be available starting in March.

While they are infamous for their Macintosh desktops, this is the first time Apple has officially marketed a data storage product.

Many of Apple’s clients are in the media business and some use rack server systems for video streaming and other database applications. Apple said it is cutting the prices on a rack server with a single processor to $2,799 from $2,999, and for a rack server with dual processors prices are dropping from $3,999 to $3,799. Memory cards can be plugged into the rack servers using a fibre channel card costing $499. Apple the storage cost starts at $5,999 for 720 gigabytes, or 720 billion bytes, of storage.

The company also released an update to its X11 Windowing environment. The open source XFree86 project for UNIX operating systems lets X11-based applications run side-by-side with native Mac OS X applications on the same desktop.

With its second beta release, Apple has included support for Gnome, support for copy and paste working with other window managers, along with other features.

One of the biggest advancement in version 0.2 is that the menu in the Dock now shows a list of X11 windows and that application windows now cascade instead of piling on top of each if they do not have an explicit placement policy.

The full release of X11 for Mac is expected later this year.