Mac OS X concentrates Apple on the back-end

Interview with Ken Bereskin

Now that Apple Computer Inc. is winning back crowds with new business and consumer desktop offerings, the company wants to make headway in the server market with Mac OS X Server, expected to be available this month.

Ken Bereskin, director of OS technologies, world-wide product marketing at Apple in Cupertino, Calif., was in Toronto recently and spoke to ComputerWorld Canada features editor Deanne N. Gage.

CWC: You’ve cited Web developers as a new potential market for Apple. What’s appealing about Mac OS X Server to Web designers?

Bereskin: There’s a couple of things. Using a Mac-based design tool, it’s incredibly easy to get files from this server because not only do we support all the Internet protocols, but this server also includes an Apple-style file server.

The server also supports all of the volume formats that the Mac supports. So if you had a Zip drive and you wanted to extend the external hard drive , you could have all your PhotoShop files and all of your QuickTime movies and just connect it up to the server and post your Web media data off that box.

We’ve also been working with companies like Macromedia to really tighten the integration between our WebObjects’ [application server] development environment and their creative, visual design tools.

CWC: Within the PC-based server environment, there’s been a lot of emphasis on directory services as a way to manage networks. Does Apple have any plans in this arena?

Bereskin: We’re starting with some technology called NetInfo that’s built into the Mac OS X Server. That’s used to manage between servers and to share some administration data. Directory services are certainly important for us. We’re actually working on some technology that I’m not prepared to talk about yet but that’s certainly essential technology for Apple in the future.

CWC: What are the future plans for Mac OS X Server?

Bereskin: Currently, there’s no formal upgrade from AppleShare IP Server to Mac OS X Server but within a year, we will probably converge the two so there’s a single server offering.

In conjunction with that, we expect to add more services to Mac OS X Server that AppleShare IP on Mac OS 8 offers today. We started with the file server and mail services will be the next niche target.

As we move forward, the desktop and server [operating systems] will share core technologies based on Mac OS X. Mac OS X, the desktop operating system, will be released later in the year.

CWC: Why do you see the NetBoot component of Mac OS X Server as being the most significant feature for the education market?

Bereskin: We think our education customers are looking for new, efficient ways to set up classrooms and labs. NetBoot allows [iMacs and G3s] to boot off the network. The clients look to Mac OS X Server for the operating system and the applications. Although this technology was primarily designed for the education market, we also see some interest from business environments.

CWC: The philosophy behind NetBoot sounds similar to the thin-client computing.

Bereskin: We don’t call this a thin-client solution but the goals are the same. Anybody that’s deploying Mac networks — whether it’s iMacs or G3s — is looking for better ways to manage networks. They’re always looking to reduce total cost of ownership and just get more bang for their buck.

The great thing from an administrator’s perspective is you can take a brand new [iMac or G3] out of the box, connect it to the network and all you do is hold down the ‘M’ key when you turn it on for the first time. That tells the client to try and boot off the network. You don’t have to do any special configurations of the local system. But the great thing for users is that they can still customize and personalize the environment.

This solution actually doesn’t require new applications at all. You can take advantage of NetBoot using existing Internet Explorer, existing AppleWorks, existing Microsoft Office, etc. We’re still using the power of the clients. All of the clients’ processing capabilities are still running the applications; it’s just that the data for the applications are stored on the server. We think that’s the right balance because it doesn’t require fundamental changes to the applications and it gives administrators all the benefits of having more control on the Macintosh environment.