‘Lion’ Server More Of A Whimper Than A Roar


The latest Mac server software is likely to be the end of the road – and it feels like it

The “Lion” Server may be the last version of the Mac OS X Server that matters, but if that’s the case, the server app is going out with a whimper rather than a roar.

It’s a solid operating system that was designed for ease of use and at least lives up to that goal. But what other goals Apple may have for the Lion Server aren’t easily discerned. Since Apple’s exit from the enterprise server market at the beginning of the year, the company has tried to position its Mac Mini and Mac Pro server(ish) configurations as replacements for the rack-mounted Xserve. But if Apple has plans to expand its server business, it’s doing a good job of disguising them.

From a pricing perspective, Apple’s been downgrading the OS for some time. The company used to sell unlimited-client versions of the Mac OS X Server for hundreds of pounds in the “Tiger” and “Leopard” years. It dropped that significantly when the “Snow Leopard” Server was released. At £34.99, the Lion Server is well past the point of being a loss leader. But there’s more in the package than ever before, which arguably raises the value proposition.

Not quite dead

For fans of Apple’s server add-ons for clustering and storage, they’re not dead yet: The Xsan storage network and the Xgrid clustering software are now bundled with the OS, if anyone cares to use them. Another “sort of” new feature in the Lion Server is Profile Manager, a tool that builds upon Apple’s experience with mobile-device management through the iPhone Configuration Utility to offer centralised, profile-based management for devices running iOS and Mac OS X Lion.

Unlike previous versions of the Mac OS X Server, the Lion Server isn’t a one-disc install. Instead, because the core software and services have to be downloaded from Apple in two installments, upgraders can expect about an hour’s downtime for the install: first of Lion, then of the Lion Server components. These are packaged in an application that’s simply referred to as “Server,” which performs first-tier management tasks such as user creation and simple service management, as well as acting as a service installer for other server applications.

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