Operating systems

10 things you should know about Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server

Mac OS X Server has come a long way -- and the power and flexibility of Snow Leopard might surprise you. Erik Eckel details the benefits and capabilities of this platform.

Technology professionals, particularly those earning stripes battling Windows tours of duty, aren't fully aware of the strides made in Mac OS X Server. Snow Leopard extends functionality and performance even further. From a single Mac Mini powering the platform to an Xgrid Distributed Computing initiative, Snow Leopard packs serious potential. Here are 10 things enterprise administrators should know about Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Serious scalability

From a simple chassis, such as Apple's $999 specially designed Mac Mini, to near state-of-the-art Xserve rack-mount servers, Snow Leopard Server is capable of scaling to most any organization's needs. Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server can manage the load, whether it's a small workgroup requiring shared calendaring, email, and file services or large enterprises requiring instant, simultaneous access to terabytes of data in multiple locations.

2: Simplified administration

Apple's hallmark has long been approachability and the ease with which its systems can be deployed, maintained, and operated. The same is true with Mac Snow Leopard Server. Users and groups are easily managed, thanks to the clean but powerful Workgroup Manager interface. The Server Status Dashboard makes short work of monitoring the server's health. System Image Utility simplifies the process of creating and deploying system images, while NetBoot permits enterprise Mac administrators to boot multiple systems using a disk-based image hosted on a single server. Snow Leopard also adds iPhone deployment and remote system restore (NetStore) tools, too.

3: No CALs required

Mac server administrators lose the headache that is client access license management. Mac OS X Server licensing does not use client access licenses. Mac OS X Snow Leopard ships for $499, with unlimited clients. So does Apple's enterprise Xserve servers. Organizations benefit in two ways: lower costs and time saved having to chase down, purchase, and record server, email ,and database CALs.

4: High availability design

Apple engineers have designed Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server for high availability. Organizations can leverage the platform's automatic recovery, file system journaling, RAID, and clustering capabilities to ensure uptime (including clustering support for email services). Business continuity is further enhanced by Snow Leopard Server's support for image capturing and deployment, rsync, ditto, tar and asr backups, and even basic Time Machine backup and recovery.

5: Directory services support

Directory services, which track information about users, groups, and their requisite permissions, have become critical infrastructure within organizations small and large alike. Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server includes a broad range of support for existing directory services and authentication technologies, including Open Directory (OpenLDAP, Kerberos, and SASL included), Windows NT Domain Services (using Samba 3), Backup Domain Controller (BDC), and RADIUS, among others.

6: Cross-platform compatible

Snow Leopard Server's support for numerous directory services technologies enables integration with other network operating systems. Organizations still requiring legacy or Windows platforms to run specific components of their business need not start from scratch when deploying Mac OS X as their NOS or abandon past IT infrastructure or investments. With the server's support for common standards and protocols (including but not limited to SMTP, POP, SSL, AFP, SMB, CIFS, IPP, DNS, DHCP, NAT, VPN, SSL, WebDAV, and MySQL), Apple's server platform is compatible with Windows, Linux, and other platforms.

7: Collaboration-friendly

Email is already a critical tool today. Increasingly, organizations are embracing team sites, instant messaging, mobile communications, and shared calendaring functionality. Snow Leopard Server natively supports all these technologies out of the box, with no additional software packages or licensing required. iCal Server 2 powers shared calendaring and meeting and event coordination. Wiki Server 2 provides a customizable wiki-powered Web site for empowering team communication and collaboration. Mobile Access Server securely connects remote users to centralized corporate resources, while iChat Server supports instant messaging.

8: Clustering-capable

Organizations requiring leading edge distributed computing capability can power their networks using Snow Leopard Server. Apple's Xgrid technology, included within Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server, enables connecting a wide-ranging collection of Mac desktops, workstations, and servers into a supercomputer. Systems need not even be in the same location to join an Xgrid cluster. The Xgrid Admin interface provides administrators with a simplified console for configuring the resulting incredibly powerful clusters. In fact, one of the world's largest Xgrids is working to cure cancer in TechRepublic's home state of Kentucky.

9: Superior Web infrastructure

Whether an organization needs to build and maintain a team collaboration Web site (Wiki Server 2), host Web pages or Web applications (integrated Apache), or produce and distribute audio and video programming on the Web (Podcast Producer 2), Snow Leopard Server is a step ahead of competing network operating systems. While many network operating systems simply host content, Mac OS X Server includes features that aid production, workflow, and publication as one streamlined process.

10: Reasonable system requirements

Despite having supercomputer potential, Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server can be installed on a Mac desktop, if need be. Smaller organizations will find they can run the platform on a Mac with a single Intel processor, 10GB of free hard disk space, and just 2GB of RAM. While 8-core Xeon Xserv systems with 48GB of RAM and three 2TB drives are available off the shelf, the platform can be run confidently on a Mac Mini within some environments.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

11 comments
isolinx
isolinx

I visited this page first time and found it Very Good Job of acknowledgment and a marvelous source of info.........Thanks Admin! Phone Lookup

Arron Smith
Arron Smith

Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server can manage the load, whether it's a small work-group requiring shared calendaring, email, and file services or large enterprises requiring instant, simultaneous access to terabytes of data in multiple locations. ruby on rails developer

j.wesley
j.wesley

"10 things you should know about Mac OS 10 Snow Leopard Server" sounds like it should contain caveats and tips on installing or running the server. Instead, I get a ten-paragraph sales pitch. I'm sure it's very keen; the bells and whistles sure are shiny, but this article doesn't tell me what it's like to actually have to administer the server. It can't be unicorns and rainbows all the way down.

nwallette
nwallette

The one point Apple fails to address, over and over again. It looks like a great platform. Can I drop it on some spare hardware to give it a shot? No.. Major investment in Apple hardware required. Not the ideal way to break into a market, fellas. They do make a great server, but so does Dell. And I have a ton of those already. Some of their home-brew applications also look impressive, and might solve problems that Exchange + OCS + Sharepoint are meant to solve (but maybe without the ridiculous price tag and enormous bloat.) I just can't help but feel that most of their bullet points are just established OSS packages that I can use, free, from a CentOS or OpenSUSE CD on much less expensive hardware. I really want to like it though... Soo... go get 'em tiger! Er.. Leopard!

mjc5
mjc5

Been using Xserver for around 6 years now. And it darn near is unicorns and rainbows. Uptime is as close to 100 percent as possible. Administration is a breeze. You'll reject this as testimonial instead of technical, but how do I convey all that time of it just working?

emansdivad
emansdivad

Apple has addressed a very important point that goes unaddressed by nearly every other hardware/software vendor in the world today. You do not into hardware compatibility issue on a Mac unless you buy hardware from another vendor, period! You cannot say that about windows and you certainly cannot say that about Linux/FreeBSD/Solaris. Competition in the market is important and it would be horrible to have one or just a few vendors providing my computing environment. So is Apple's answer for everyone? Of course not, but when you try to get Dell servers to play nicely with many Linux distros, that aren't Red Hat or SLES, you run into a great number of issues in the real world. Most sys admins already have enough to deal with...

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... when the Apple hardware tends to be the most reliable hardware over time as well, saving much more than the simple up-front difference you get when buying commodity hardware. I understand the lower initial cost savings, but Apple has proven a superior ROI over time often enough that Fortune 500 companies are beginning to adopt Apple hardware in their enterprise operations.

techieplexia
techieplexia

ROI? I would like to see cases and numbers where that is true. Not being sarcastic at all, just would be interesting to see if that is actually the case. Cheap hardware is initially cheap to implement and still just as cheap to replace components. I don't care how good the hardware is, Apple hardware is just susceptible to natural disaster and wear & tear. The only companies I can see adding or switching to Apple would be design\publishing firms or any other that already use Apple. Is there anyone looking to add Apple during these dreary times?

nwallette
nwallette

Good point... here's my take: If your organization has a depreciation schedule, you don't need your server to last 10 years. Often, if you can get 3-5 years out of commodity hardware, the increases in performance and power efficiency of a next-generation server can make the replacement cost much easier to justify. If you have a service plan in-place during that time, any hardware failures are on the manufacturer's dime. Yeah, you can probably find a task well-suited to older, slower hardware that's past its prime. But you can also retire that hardware, buy something new, and virtualize 20 of those low-demand services, and come out ahead. (I'll grant that Microsoft licensing restrictions on VMs does put a damper on some of the savings you get by virtualizing.) Which also begs the question -- how does virtualizing OS X Server work? The situation changes for a small business with a grand total of ONE server, but for those guys, I'd really like to see a SMB-targeted Linux server customized the way projects like OpenNAS and Tomato have been. The Microsoft/Apple Tax is even more tough for the little guys to swallow. (That's why they're often just workgroups.)

emansdivad
emansdivad

Yes, you can virtualize Snow Leopard Server. You cannot virtualize Snow Leopard without a small hack, but Server works great, is simple and easy to install.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Can you virtualize MacOS? (Very first google search result for "Virtualize" was Virtualize OsX")

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