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Commentary & Analysis

XSTUFF: JUST THE FACTS

By Pat Taylor,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: January 14, 2005

By Pat Taylor, Proactive Technologies I must state unconditionally that I am Operating System Agnostic; I do not care if a customer wants to run his business on OS 9, OS X, any version of Windows, or any of the UNIX operating systems January 14, 2005 -- These words will rattle a cage or two, and I have some friends in the industry that are certain to respond with a zealot's rage at the facts presented in this article. However, I have a professional obligation to serve my industry and will continue to do so -- especially when given an opportunity to "stir the pot" of controversy! Please note: it is important to accept the following disclaimer before reading any further. I must state unconditionally that I am Operating System Agnostic; I do not care if a customer wants to run his business on OS 9, OS X, any version of Windows, or any of the UNIX operating systems. My job is to remove the hype surrounding the launch of new technologies and qualify them for use in our industry. To that end, I submit the following information for your consideration. Many printers are beginning to replace some of the aging technology they use to run their businesses; specifically, there are a lot of printers buying new servers and storage systems. I was at lunch with one of my customers just last week discussing plans for upgrading his infrastructure. "I think I'll get my new Xserve this month," said Tony with so much enthusiasm that crusty flakes of fish batter flew out of his mouth and all across the table between us. "OS X rocks, and the pricing on the Xserve and XRAID just blows my mind!" Insanely great. We know. We know about the XStuff; we offer it along with all the other server, storage, and networking equipment we sell our customers. And watching OS X mature is exciting. It is a complete departure from the previous Apple Operating Systems and is, in fact, POSIX-compliant (a true UNIX kernel that now includes a journaling file system). This is a good thing. Moreover, we see many software developers porting applications to the OS X platform. Several companies now offer OS X versions of their workflow products, and more are forthcoming. The adoption of an Operating System by Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) gives that OS life. "What do you plan to use the Xserve for, Tony?" I asked as I brushed off the remnants of his enthusiasm off my shirt. "Well, for my File Server, of course." "The cornerstone?" "Whaddya mean, 'the cornerstone?' " "As the file server, the Xserve will become the hub around which the rest of your business turns -- a digital pillar for your company. The cornerstone." "Well, yeah. Why not?" Tony was still holding his sandwich, but he wasn't eating it now. He was looking across the table at a trusted advisor and could tell from my baiting tone that a gig was soon to follow." "Did you look at the specs on the Xserve, Tony?" "'Course I did", he stated confidently. "It's got the fastest processors on the planet, the greatest OS, built-in Gigabit Ethernet… everything." "What kind of disk drives does Apple load the Operating System on?" "An 80 gigabyte drive. Two if you want 'em." "80 gig Serial ATA drives, Tony. Can you think of any other manufacturer of server-class products that uses low-end drives for their Operating System?" Tony was suddenly finished with lunch. Apparently, he had lost his appetite. "SGI, Sun, HP and IBM all use SCSI disk drives in their servers, Tony. Even Wintel servers use SCSI drives for the OS. The reason is stability; SCSI drives (as well as Fibre Channel drives) come with a 5-year warranty. And you want to build your business on a rock-solid cornerstone, right?" Understand what you're buying and deploy it properly. "I'll just buy a pair of 'em and mirror the data. If I lose one, I can use the other. Apple designed it that way." As expected, Tony had bristled up. His passion for Apple makes him defensive. Talking bad about Apple is right there with politics and religion; topics that are best left alone among friends. Unfortunately, my obligation to the industry supersedes the importance of being politically correct. "What are you going to plug into the Xserve, Tony?" "One of those screaming XRAIDs and a library for backing up my data." "You did notice that the Xserve only comes with two [PCI] expansion slots, right? Use one for the Fibre Channel adapter you need for the XRAID and the other for the tape library, and you're done. There are no slots left open; you only get two. Those are the facts." "Well, what else do I need?" Tony waved for the waitress; this conversation was about to come to an end. "You might want a video adapter for a monitor, or you might want to expand your storage system. You might want to add another connection to your network, or take advantage of Network Attached Storage by adding a TOE card to speed things up. That's why we call them expansion slots, man; they allow your system to grow. You cannot do that with this machine." "So you're saying I'm wasting my money on the Xserve?" The tension was thick as smoke. "Not at all. I'm only stating the facts. There are lots of places where the Xserve provides real value to a printing company. I've seen some great products that run very well on the Xserve. I'm just saying that you don't want this machine as the cornerstone of your digital business. At least not yet." "Hmph." Not a positive sign. A simple 'Hmmm' might indicate he was thinking about the information, but the 'ph' meant 'BS'. "Look, Tony, don't get the wrong idea. If you want to build your business on Xstuff, great; your people will be comfortable with the interface and everybody loves Apple. All I ask is that you understand what you're buying and deploy it properly. You almost always make your business decisions based on the technical facts. No doubt that Apple has cornered the market on 'cool', but 'cool' is rarely considered acceptable justification for a business decision." "You gonna bash my XRAID now?" Tony snarled. "No. I'll save that 'til our next meeting." I smiled at my joke; Tony did not. It is important to remember the vast majority of workflow software for our industry runs on Windows. OS X is real, and more software is being written for it every month. Apple is giving us options that we sorely need in this industry. In time, it will provide us with an option to Windows and we will all benefit from that competition. In the meantime, however, it is important to remember the vast majority of workflow software for our industry runs on Windows. Most of the application software we run on the Administrative side of the house is written for Windows. Whether you're looking at a new workflow, a new proofing solution or a color management system, you are probably looking at products that require a Windows Operating System. And Windows will not run on an Xserve. Those, my friends, are the facts.

 

 

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