If a server line is discontinued and no one complains, did it matter in the first place?
That's the only question I can come up with as I ponder the demise of the Apple Xserve. The nearly 10-year run for the Xserve came to a close this week as the company continues its transition from professional data center technology to more business/consumer lines like the iPhone and iPad. All that remains of Apple's traditional data center line-up are the Mac Mini and Mac Pro servers and the various flavors of OS X operating systems.
It probably wasn't a big surprise, though, that the move did not cause the usual pulling of hair that had greeted the phasing out of enterprise-class technology in the past. For one, Apple gave its community plenty of heads up that the end was nigh. And secondly, it's not as though many enterprises had built their infrastructure around Apple hardware to begin with. Still, for many Apple devotees, a certain sense of loss was palpable.
Surveys indicate that few people will simply dump their Xserves right away. The Enterprise Desktop Alliance reports that nearly two-thirds of its members plan to keep their boxes for another two years at least. In the end, however, as support from Cupertino fades away, organizations will have no choice but to support their Mac infrastructures without the Xserve.
But even here, the news isn't all bad. A number of third-party vendors are stepping in the fill the void. One of them is H-Squared, which showed off a new Mini Rack at MacWorld Expo recently that is capable of holding up to six Mac Minis per rack. In a 5U rack, the unit can deliver 18 Minis for a total of 36 cores.
It also appears that an Xserve replacement is in the works from a company called Active Storage. Bloggers at 9to5mac.com report that the unit will run a "webmin variant with Darwin" that will deliver all the functions of ServerAdmin on the equivalent of a wiki page. No word yet on how the device will handle Desktop ServerAdmin.
Clearly, the passing of the Xserve has not hit the industry as hard as if, say, IBM were suddenly to pull the plug on the System x or HP were to decide that the Integrity just isn't worth the bother anymore. But there remains a strong feeling of nostalgia in Apple circles, perhaps not for the Xserve itself but for the idea that Apple could have developed something truly revolutionary for the data center if it had put its mind to it.