I was a bit saddened today to see that the sexiest single U server on the market was being discontinued. That very delineation is probably part of the reason for it’s abandonment. Apple makes hardware (and software) designed around the user experience, and while the Xserve was no exception, the target user isn’t necessarily all that concerned about user experience in the server commodity market. The concern is cost, density, power, cooling, performance, and host of other non-UE concerns. Often, those responsible for purchasing aren’t even involved in the act of deploying or maintaining the boxes – the ultimate IT dissonance effect. Unfortunately, in the server space, users aren’t going to rebel from the IT mantra of “make my life easier”. The datacenter is also a rapidly changing market itself, with a number of very powerful cost drivers that definitely lend to a space very contradictory to Apple’s core values. Density and virtualization are the words of the day, and I can’t imagine Apple wanting to spends it’s limited resources remaining competitive in this space.
Interestingly, Apple could maintain a very strong presence in this market without jeopardizing it’s vaunted control. It might even be what Apple is doing in it’s own new NC data center. What if Apple partnered with VMWare to offer a VM only variant of Mac OS X server that could then run on commodity hardware? This would allow for the requisite controlled hardware and driver environment. The Hackintosh community is already doing this anyway on bare metal. The risk isn’t any greater by offering it in this manner if limited only to the more expensive Server variant. Leave enterprise server hardware to the domain experts in those areas, HP, Dell, IBM, and still maintain a presence in that market – and a revenue stream.
Could you imagine a partnership with Dell selling a datacenter of Blades running OS X under VMWare? Sign me up!