The techie’s guide to life beyond Xserve

In January, Apple officially pulled the plug on Xserve. But, if you’re now looking round your server room wondering what that means for your school’s setup, we’ve got good news. Whether you want a Mac server or feel you’re ready to tackle Mac/PC integration using PC hardware, we’ve got the answer (and you won’t even need to enrol yourself on a training course before you can use it).

The Apple Way

Mac OS X Server is still very much alive! If you’re after an alternative and want to swap one piece of Mac hardware for another, you have two options: add Mac Pro with Snow Leopard Server to your infrastructure, or divide up the workload between a gang of Mac minis.

Mac Pro with Snow Leopard Server

Choose this if: You’re looking to stick with Apple hardware as it’s the most obvious Xserve alternative.

The idea of using a Mac Pro as a server is far from new, and the Pro tower is actually a more expandable option than Xserve ever was. There’s enough space for up to 64GB of memory, four internal drive bays (which support up to 8TB of SATA storage), and the option of adding the Mac Pro RAID card for internal RAID capability. There are also three usable PCI Express expansion slots (versus Xserve’s two) and the same built-in connectivity as Xserve.

However, the hot-swappable drives are conspicuously absent and there’s no dual redundant power supply. That said, there are plenty of third-party solutions which can help alleviate any problems.

Bear in mind… Mac Pro doesn’t have the same form factor as Xserve, and if you do like everything to be nicely shelved, two Mac Pros will take up 12 units of rack space! For more information about Mac Pro with Snow Leopard Server, get in touch with us.

Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server

Choose this if: You need a solution for a small workgroup of up to 50 users.

Mac mini has had its own dedicated server version for a while. The latest edition comes with easy memory access, a built-in power supply, a dual core processor, and a compact form factor that lets you fit two systems in a 1U rack space.

Mac mini can deal with all the standard server services offered by Mac OS X Server – such as email, file sharing, instant messaging and web work – making it ideal for use by a particular department or class. One of the big benefits of Mac mini is that it’s easy to set up and run. This makes it a good choice if you want a machine that’ll do a lot of the hard work for you.

Bear in mind… Mac mini uses less than 10 watts of power when idle, helping keep your school IT green, and cutting energy costs. For more information about Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server, get in touch with us.

The EDA Way

Another option is to venture into the world of Mac/PC integration and use your existing infrastructure. Thanks to the Enterprise Desktop Alliance (a consortium of software manufacturers), incompatible files, snail-like transfer speeds and nightmarishly complicated update rollouts are no longer something you need to worry about.

The Enterprise Desktop Alliance

Choose this if: You already have Windows servers on-site and want to manage your Macs using them, without having to learn a new set of skills.

The EDA is a project set up by a group of high-end software producers (including Group Logic, Centrify, Absolute Software and more) with the intention of making it easier to get Macs on your PC network. The EDA alternative to Xserve lets you break free of the Golden Triangle approach. Rather than running Mac- and Windows-based servers alongside each other, you use software such as Centrify’s DirectControl and Group Logic’s ExtremeZ-IP to move Macs on to your existing Windows servers, where they can be managed as if they are PCs.

Manage preferences with Centrify DirectControl

This software sits on your server and makes all your Macs look like PCs, so that they can be managed using Active Directory. As well as letting students and teachers who are using Macs benefit from Active Directory’s tried-and-tested failover policies, it reduces your workload by moving all server operations on to a single platform, so you won’t have to waste time translating between Apple’s Open Directory and Windows’ Active one.

Manage file and print servers with Group Logic’s ExtremeZ-IP

Though some versions of Windows Server (not including the current one) only provide limited support for Apple Filing Protocol (AFP), they tend to be slow. ExtremeZ-IP offers native AFP support, so students and teachers get the full Mac experience at native speeds. It also lets you enforce cross-platform file-naming policies, so important files are always available to Mac and PC users.

…and then keep track of your systems using Absolute Manage

Absolute Manage is a powerful asset management system that offers licence tracking and version control functions, and even identifies shortfalls that would normally stop you rolling out a universal upgrade smoothly. It can also image computers without users having to log off, perform global power management to improve energy efficiency, and provide theft tracking and remote wipe functions.

Bear in mind… we’re the world’s first Enterprise Desktop Alliance Systems Integrator, so can work with you to find a configuration that meets your school’s needs.

For more information about what your school’s post-Xserve options are, give us a call on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.comFor more news on technology in Education, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter and ‘Like’ Jigsaw Education’s Facebook page.

Call us: 03332 409 306

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