Mac OS X Server designed for Web

The new Mac OS X Server operating system is Apple Computer Inc.’s attempt to bring Unix strength into the Macintosh environment for the Web, according to the company.

“[Mac OS X Server] is a new operating system for us…It is targeted very much at Web serving and network booting,” said Bruce Hogh, Apple’s national software specialist in Markham, Ont.

Based on BSD 4.4, one of the many Unix flavours, Mac OS X Server includes the popular Web server software Apache 1.3.3, as well as WebObjects 4.

“WebObjects…is an Apple technology that was previously only run on Windows NT,” Hogh said. It is an application server platform for development and deployment of high-performance, large-scale Internet and intranet applications, according to Apple’s OS X press release.

“Probably the most innovative part of [Mac OS X Server] is its ability to network boot certain Macintosh computers…The client Macintoshes can boot off the server, and you have one system folder on the server, you have security, you have one-stop administration,” Hogh said. This feature is called NetBoot.

Eric Schmitt, analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., pointed out a different feature he expects to be quite popular.

“Probably one of the most long-awaited features is the threaded structure of the OS, also called pre-emptive multitasking,” Schmitt said. “You can pop from window to window or application to application and have other applications run in the background. That’s especially useful for something like a Web server package where it’s got a Web server and e-mail server running on the same machine, and people are popping in with requests for Web pages and at the same time there are e-mail messages coming in and out.

“You can’t do that with the current Mac OS. You can flip over to something else, but whatever you were doing will pause,” Schmitt explained.

Schmitt said Apple was wise to build the system on the BSD base.

“You’d just expect Apple to build it from the ground up, and I think they made the right choice by basing it on a tried and true Unix kernel and just building a windowed environment around that that makes the Unix background underneath transparent to users,” Schmitt said.

Apple’s Hogh said the company isn’t looking for a wide market for Mac OS X Server.

“Certain customers are asking for higher-end performance and specific things like the NetBoot and wanting the high performance of the Apache Web server software. This is an answer to them,” Hogh said.

When asked how he expects Mac OS X Server to compete against a free competitor such as Linux, Hogh said it depends on what the user is looking for.

“If you’re looking at strictly cost, no, we can’t compete with Linux. But what we are doing is putting a very good user interface on top of it…and we’re making sure that it is 100-per-cent compatible with the hardware, and we’ll be marketing it for specific implementations. Many third-party developers are looking to run on top of Mac OS X Server as well.

“So yes, if you’re just looking at pricing, Linux wins. If you’re looking at the fact that we’re going to be marketing in specific places and standing behind it with sales and support and third-party applications, we think we’ve got a pretty good story,” Hogh said.

Mac OS X Server pricing has not been set yet in Canada, but it is priced at US$999 per server licence in the United States. It is expected to ship worldwide this spring.

Apple Canada in Markham, Ont., is at 1-800-263-3394 or on-line at