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Serving Up Servers

Last week Apple announced a slew of new servers, ranging from the high-end Network Servers to the second release of the popular Apple Internet Server Solution machines. For more information about these servers and their shipping dates, check out Apple’s Web site at:


Network Servers — In a fairly drastic move, Apple announced the Network Servers 500/132 and 700/150, which run not the Mac OS, but rather AIX 4.1.4, IBM’s variant of Unix. The Network Servers are based on the PowerPC 604 chip running at either 132 or 150 MHz, come with two built-in Fast/Wide SCSI-2 channels for optimal hard disk performance, and accept up to 512 MB of RAM. They sport two PCI buses and slots for up to six PCI cards. Reportedly, one of the coolest features of the new servers is their physical design, with a patented access door that provides key-controlled security and access to the main parts of the machine, including the hot-swappable drives (you can install up to seven half-height 3.5" or 5.25" hard drives or three 5.25" full-height drives), hot-swappable cooling fans, and the logic board. The Network Server 700 has an option for redundant, hot-swappable power supplies for truly mission-critical environments. Prices range from about $10,000 to $16,500 for a system without enhancements.

Apple intends the Network Servers to satisfy performance-hungry server customers, especially those who may already have AIX or other Unix expertise in place. However, I think Apple must be careful, since the Network Servers could hurt the marketing message Apple’s been creating about its servers, particularly the Internet servers. Since these Network Servers run Unix, they won’t be easy to set up or maintain, they won’t be as secure as Mac OS-based servers if they’re on the Internet, and they certainly won’t be as easy to sell or support, given that Apple’s expertise isn’t in the Unix world. MacWEEK tested the Network Servers and found their performance impressive.

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Apple Workgroup Servers — On a more prosaic note, Apple also announced two new Mac OS-based Apple Workgroup Servers (AWS) based on the PowerPC 604 chip running at 120 and 132 MHz. The AWS 7250/120 and 8550/132 sport a PCI bus and run System 7.5.3, which includes Open Transport 1.1. Along with the Internet software bundle discussed below, there are two other software bundles. The Application Server Solution bundle, worth about $4,000, includes FileWave, Now Contact, Now Up-to-Date, Viper Instant Access, 4-Sight Fax, netOctopus, Virex, and Skyline/Satellite. The AppleShare Server Solution comes with AppleShare 4.2.1, which now has a PowerPC-native file server engine and support for Open Transport 1.1 to increase performance significantly (it supports up to 3,000 open files and 250 simultaneous logins). Other software, for a total value of about $6,000, includes Server Manager, AppleShare Client for Windows, Apple Remote Access Multiport Server Software, and Retrospect Remote. Prices for new Workgroup Server bundles range from about $2,900 to about $8,000.

Apple Internet Server Solution 2.0 — Although it remains to be seen how the market will receive the Network Servers, the second release of the Apple Internet Server Solution for the World Wide Web machines should sell extremely well, thanks primarily to an extensive software bundle. As with the initial release of these machines, there are three different options for hardware, the Workgroup Server 6150/66, the 7250/120, and the 8550/132. Prices range from $2,300 to $6,500, but the low-end 6150/66 will easily handle most Web serving needs. The beefier machines should attract people planning to run intensive CGIs.

What makes these machines so compelling is the software bundle, which includes: WebSTAR 1.2.5, PageMill 1.0, RealAudio Server 1.0, NetCloak 2.0, HomeDoor 1.0, MacDNS, ServerStat 1.0, BBEdit 3.5.2, Netscape Navigator 2.0, AppleSearch 1.5.1, Acrobat Pro 2.1, MapServe and WebMap, Tango and a 100-record trial version of Butler SQL, Email CGI, HyperCard, and AppleScript. If you want most of that software, it’s cheaper to buy the low-end 6150 than it is to buy the software separately. The one liability of the software bundle is that you may not qualify for free upgrades. Unfortunately, that also applies to owners of the software that came with the first Apple Internet Server Solution machines – there’s no upgrade path for the bundle, so you must upgrade each piece of software independently.

Overall, Apple’s new Mac OS-based servers look like they’ll do well since they provide good performance and excellent functionality via their software bundles. More questionable are the Network Servers, which represent an entirely different path for Apple; that path may prove too slippery for comfort despite the significant performance gains from moving to AIX.

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