Apple on Tuesday announced an updated Xserve that delivers up to twice the performance of its previous-generation server.
The combination of Intel's Nehalem Xeon processors and a new system architecture deliver up to an 89 percent performance-per-watt improvement. Xserve is available with one or two Intel Xeon processors, a low-power solid-state drive (SSD) and up to 3TB of internal storage. The Xserve includes an unlimited client license and sells for $2,999.
"The Xserve is the best work group server for our education, business and creative customers," said David Moody, Apple's vice president of worldwide Mac product marketing. "With up to twice the performance, better power efficiency, and an innovative SSD drive option, this is the best Xserve we've ever made."
Specing Out the New Xserve
The Xserve's Intel Xeon processors run at speeds up to 2.93 GHz. Each processor offers an integrated memory controller with three channels of 1066-MHz DDR3 ECC memory that Apple said delivers up to 2.4 times the memory bandwidth while cutting memory latency up to 40 percent. Using high-efficiency power supplies and intelligent thermal management, Apple said Xserve delivers a 19 percent reduction in idle power use.
Xserve offers a 128GB SSD boot-drive option that demands only a fraction of the power of a hard disk and delivers up to 48 times faster random-access times without occupying a drive bay, according to Apple. Xserve's three 3.5-inch drive bays support both 7200 rpm SATA and 15,000 rpm SAS drives and can be configured with up to 3TB of internal storage.
Two PCI Express 2.0 x16 expansion slots provide massive I/O bandwidth to support the latest high-bandwidth expansion cards. Apple said the Xserve RAID card option now delivers improved performance up to 497MB/s and supports RAID levels 0, 1 and 5 with 512MB of cache without using a PCI Express expansion slot. A 72-hour backup battery is included for enhanced data protection.
Leopard on Xserve
Every Xserve ships with an unlimited client edition of Leopard Server. The operating system supports Mac, Linux and Windows clients without the added cost of client-access licenses. According to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, this broad client support is a key reason Apple moved to Intel chips. Profit margins are another.
"Apple switched from the IBM PowerPC to Intel a couple of years ago so it could enjoy more aggressive pricing on the processor side, which helps improve profit margins," King said. "But it also more fully opened up the world of Windows and Linux computing to the Mac platform. The move to Nehalem makes sense."
Apple said Leopard Server extends the company's user-friendly reputation by way of the Server Assistant and Server Preferences that aim to allow even nontechnical users to manage users and groups on the server and easily set up key services. But King said the Xserve remains a highly specialized platform that requires either staff with special skills or staff that is prepared to go through training to run it.
"The capabilities of a machine like that need to be really notable for it to pay off for the company," King said. "Apple's got a great rep in the consumer world and even among business PC manufacturers, but its servers are relegated to some fairly niche areas. Companies need to ask themselves if it's worth paying a premium for a product that is of relatively limited use and requires different skill sets than the Windows-based HP, IBM and Dell servers that they could probably get for much less."