Apple and the Enterprise

So I’ve had this thought for some time now, and have shared it with a few people here and there. Before I start getting deep into speculation, I want to lay down some facts:

  • Oct 2010 – Apple outsources Enterprise sales and support to Unisys.
  • Nov 2010 – Apple announces the discontinuation of the XServe. At the same time, they release a laughable white paper, referring to the Mac Pro and Mac Mini Server as reasonable replacements. The Mac enterprise community is shocked, not so much at the discontinuation of the XServe, but at the options left behind.
  • February 2011 – Apple releases Light Peak (rebranded as ThunderBolt) enabled Macbook Pros. ThunderBolt represents a huge increase in external interface bandwidth for consumer-level equipment, allowing them over three times the bandwidth of the fastest interface- eSATA.
  • April 2011 – Promise announces SANLink ThunderBolt to Fiber Channel interface, with assistance from Apple in the design.

Macs in the data center.

Many Mac Administrators have begun to believe that Apple is just giving up in the enterprise market, relegating the server space to Windows and Linux machines running on VMWare virtualization clusters of IBM/Dell/HP blade servers.

My thought is the opposite. Apple can make a compelling case to replace the blade servers from other manufacturers with Apple kit.

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Case Study: Floods of 2008

On June 10, 2008, floods forced personnel to  evacuate  parts of the Great Ape Trust of Iowa’s campus. As their IT Director, Jon Thompson was integral in the disaster response and recovery of the IT and other parts of the operation.

The primary server system, an XSan cluster, was not removed at that time, as water was not supposed to enter the building that housed the server room. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Jon evacuating a Fibre Channel switch

Fortunately, Jon had already made arrangements with Mediacom to temporarily relocate the Trust’s server equipment to their data center in West Des Moines. On June 11, XSan cluster was removed from the campus by boat.

During the flood, Jon was still able to keep all remote services running, providing vital communication services to those protecting the apes, which were still living in now-flooded buildings. He also assisted in repairing a secondary boat, which was essential in the dangerous waters of the flood.

After the water receded, Jon managed the contractors who cleaned debris out of the extensive data conduit, replaced ethernet wiring, and repaired fibre. In addition, Jon designed and managed the remodeling of the server room, effectively doubling the space available to work.

Almost two months after the evacuation of the campus, the XSan cluster returned to the Great Ape Trust campus, where it resides today. Out of the server room, only one server and one UPS was lost in this process.

Jon prepares XSan cluster for return

Looking at 2010, floods once again threaten businesses such as the Great Ape Trust. A disaster response plan is essential for all businesses, but especially those residing in a flood plain, such as downtown Des Moines.

Evolve can help. 515.360.1351

Software RAID Problems

My friend and colleague Tom Bridge sent me a useful bit of information for those interested in the Mac Mini Server…

Mirrored Apple RAID and SoftRAID cause kernel panics under 10.6 and 10.6.1 server.”

What this means is that the Mac Mini Server is not really all that useful until they resolve this issue, and anyone updating their software RAID-based servers should hold off as well.
Further research indicates that some people feel that it has to do with custom block sizes. I was unable to ask Tom whether his experience with this bug was the result of custom block sizes or not, although I doubt he would have done so.
This probably affects Snow Leopard client as well.