RealTime IT News

Apple Server Blossoms with Telcos

Apple Computer is continuing to infuse the IT community with its G5-based products, extending its tendrils into some sectors the company previously did not have traction in.

Best known for its desktop systems, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker Tuesday began shipping single-processor configurations of its Xserve G5 server.

The boxes retail for $2,999 and come with 512MB of PC3200 ECC RAM, a single 80GB Apple Drive Module that can be expanded up to 750GB, dual Gigabit Ethernet on-board, FireWire 800 and USB 2.0, and an unlimited client license of Mac OS X Server.

While the Xserve has proved popular as a file and print server or as a Web server, Apple Director of Hardware Storage Alex Grossman told internetnews.com the G5 is gaining popularity on the edge of the network with content delivery providers and telecommunication companies.

"We're being welcomed into these new areas," Grossman said. "What we're seeing is the QuickTime streaming platform being used for a number of content delivery uses. These companies are looking at their UNIX-based Sun and other vendor boxes and moving over to Macintosh OS X Panther."

Apple is quietly making gains in server rooms and data centers and not just because the art department needs a G5. Improvements to the company's Xserve and Xserve RAID products as well as new networking software is allowing more companies to give Apple the eye.

For example, Apple senior director of QuickTime Frank Casanova said the latest QuickTime Streaming Server softwareis perfect for Xserve G5 in that it can now handle 10,000 radio streams reflected off of one new server, double the number of streams previously available on the original Xserve G4.

"More than just content creation and consumer playback, QuickTime is proving to be a valuable content delivery tool," he said.

Apple said it has already inked deals with telco provider StarHub in Singapore and is in the middle of a dozen other trials in Asia.

As previously reported, Apple added support for NTT DoCoMo's 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to its code to make its streaming creation, delivery and playback platform more available over wireless networks. Japan-based KDDI has also signed on as a client partner with Apple.

The latest version of QuickTime offers extensive support for 3GPP, including Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) and Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR) audio, MPEG-4 and H.263 video, 3G Text (TX3G) and native .3GP file format support.

Some of the interest from telcos, according to Grossman, stems from the fact that Apple bundles so much software in the server edition of its operating system and provides no additional licensing fees with a purchase of the hardware.

"If you do this with a Dell server and then use RealNetworks as your content platform, you end up paying a lot," he said.

Grossman said that traction is expected to grow when the company starts shipping its two other standard Xserve G5 configurations sometime in April -- a $3,999 2GHz dual-processor version with an unlimited license and a $2,999 2GHz "cluster-optimized" version with a 10-client license.

In addition to its new telco friends, Apple is wooing the scientific community with its new Apple Workgroup Cluster for Bioinformatics. The computing cluster software setup includes iNquiry, a 3rd-party bioinformatics package from The BioTeam. Installation and maintenance have also been greatly simplified so Apple said little or no IT support is required.

One customer guaranteed to buy at least 1,100 G5 Xserve boxes is Virginia Tech. The university said they will do a one for one swap of its current configuration of PowerMac G5s for the new Xserve G5s.

The school runs the "System X" high performance computing cluster, which recently secured the No. 3 spot on the Top 500 list of supercomputers. The $5.2 million system sits just behind NEC's $300 million Earth Simulator in Japan and the $215 million ASCI Q, an HP-based machine housed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.