One of the perennial question in IT circles is whether Apple still has the desire to mount a truly competitive data center platform, or should it just give up the pretense of being remotely interested in infrastructure altogether?
This morning it dawned on me: The best way to gauge Apple's commitment to its hardware platform is to see how much cloud development it's getting. The answer is: next to nothing.
To date, it appears Apple is wholly focused on software for mobile infrastructure, where, at best, it sees itself as a cloud provider handing out new apps to new devices. Witness the company's plans for a new data center in Maiden, NC, that is -- said to approach half-a-million square feet - that would be ideal for hosting services for legions of followers. There's also talk about an expanded suite of cloud-ready iWorks applications, although it's hard to draw any real conclusions based on a single want-ad.
As for the company's vaunted operating system, the only thing I can find regarding cloud capability are recent references in iSlate circles that the new tablet will have access to OS X 10.7, which is going to be called "Clouded Leopard." Whether that means users of OS X in general will see new cloud capabilities is unclear. It may very well be that the name simply stuck with Mac partisans who noted that there is an actual Clouded Leopard in the wild, closely related to Asia's Snow Leopard. I have yet to see anything from Apple that the next OS X will have cloud-capable features or that the name "Clouded Leopard" is actually under consideration.
But when it comes to placing actual cloud architectures on Apple hardware like the Mac and XServe, there doesn't seem to be activity of any kind. Part of this is due to the one-way street Apple has paved for itself on the virtual layer, where Windows and Linux instances can be booted on Macs via technologies like Virtual Bridges' Verde 3.0, but OS X on non-Apple hardware is strictly verboten. And it now seems that the new generation of Nehalem-based XServes is having trouble running virtualization platforms like ESXi, diminishing further the device's ability to function in virtual environments at a time when the company hopes to boost XServe's role as a clustering solution.
It's been well-documented that Apple places great value in maintaining complete control over its environment -- from raw iron to top-level applications. The problem is that productivity and efficiency levels are about to go through the roof as enterprises shed their brick-and-mortar data centers and start shifting their loads to the clouds.
If an IT platform can't keep up with that revolution, then it's doomed to the technological backwater -- active and interesting perhaps, but largely irrelevent.