Apple’s Panther Server Ready To Pounce

On Friday evening, Apple will launch the latest versions of both its desktop and server operating systems, version 10.3, nicknamed Panther. The desktop version will retail for US$129, while Panther Server, which can run on any Apple G4, including the Xserve, as well as the new Power Mac G5 towers, will cost $499 for 10 users or $999 for an unlimited number of seats.

Apple server software director Tom Goguen described Panther Server’s tagline, “Open Source Made Easy,” as an apt way of expressing the union between Panther’s use of open-source standards and the Mac OS’s elegant and easy-to-use GUI.

Goguen told the E-Commerce Times that Apple is a big fan of open standards and of technology originating from the open-source community. He said he believes that in the latest iteration of its OS, Apple has taken the best technology from the open-source world and has provided the sort of integration that will offer users all the tools they need in a single package.

Samba Time

Bryan Chaffin, publisher of Web site The Mac Observer, told the E-Commerce Times that Panther Server’s Samba 3, an open-source networking technology designed to make Mac OS X work seamlessly in a Windows environment, may be the single biggest improvement in the new release.

“For Apple to gain market share in the corporate space, Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server have to be able to play nice with Windows,” he said. “Panther Server plays more nicely than any previous versions of the Mac OS, bar none.”

Chaffin also praised improvements to Panther Server’s mail services, including its built-in support for mailing lists through Mailman and Web-based mail through SquirrelMail.

For his part, Goguen pointed out that SquirrelMail and Mailman rely on open standards, as do Panther’s other mail services, such as Postfix, its SMTP mail transfer agent, Cyrus for IMAP and POP services, and Open SSL, which encrypts e-mail as it travels between users either on a single mail server or between different mail servers.

In a nutshell, he said, Apple’s reliance on open standards in these and Panther Server’s myriad other services will make the new OS compatible with system administrators’ existing network infrastructure.

Breaking Windows

According to Chaffin, Apple’s “Open Source Made Easy” slogan appears to be directly targeting people who are fed up with Microsoft’s security problems and licensing conditions but are not ready to jump into the wild and woolly world of Linux.

He noted that although Panther Server is more expensive than many Linux products, it is much cheaper than Microsoft’s server offerings. Also, potential customers may consider Panther on more than simply price.

After all, with Jaguar and now Panther, Apple has put a lot of effort into plugging the holes some had perceived in its server offerings, so it now can pitch Mac OS X as a solid solution.

Which Market?

Goguen said that Panther Server is targeting small and medium businesses — even those that run 100 percent Windows PCs — based on its plug-and-play aspects and its price.

However, Chaffin said he believes Apple’s Windows services, such as Active Directory support, NT Domain Services and Samba 3, are not aimed at small businesses but at larger companies with complex networks. He said he thinks the same thing is true of other features, such as Open Directory and improved NetBoot support.

“Apple is making a play for the corporate market, and Xserve and Panther Server [offers] the strongest networking product line Apple has ever had, one that works well for the corporate space,” he noted.

Added Chaffin: “What Apple brings to the table is a great GUI on a system that is as robust as Linux, but substantially less expensive and more secure than Windows. That is going to be the angle Apple hits the hardest.”

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