Apple Xserve G5 challenges Linux clusters

The $2,999 Xserve PowerPC G5 server "is not just for IT people, users themselves can set it up," Apple Computer Inc.'s Douglas Brooks says.

Brooks, Apple's server hardware product manager, said today at FOSE 2004 in Washington that the dual-processor version is hardware-streamlined for tight coupling in an Apple Workgroup Cluster, in contrast with the more loosely coupled Linux PC clusters nicknamed Beowulf.

The Xserve G5, which became available today in three rackmount configurations starting at $2,999 and $3,999, comes with one or two IBM-built 2-GHz G5 processors, up to 1G of error-correcting-code RAM, up to 750G of storage, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, and FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 ports.

The included Mac OS X 10.3 server operating system, based on BSD Unix, has 200 built-in applications. Two of the server configurations include unlimited OS X client licensing with no extra charge for large numbers of user connections, Brooks said.

Apple claims that the Xserve in a rackmount enclosure can execute more than 30 trillion floating-point operations per second'about 60 percent more than its G4 predecessor.

Brooks said federal agencies are using FireWire connections mostly for video streaming and editing. "On a server, FireWire becomes powerful for cloning data and as an extra 800-Mbps networking connection," he said.

Anything Apple creates or modifies in the OS "goes back to the open-source community for peer review," Apple vice president John H. Brandon said. "We try to be very proactive about security" by offering automatic security and other software updates when a system goes online.

As a further security measure, "the systems are shipped locked down,' he said. 'Users must make a conscious choice to open ports and obtain authority to change an application."

Agencies can get a 15 percent discount on the Xserve G5 through resellers CDW Government Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill., GTSI Corp. of Chantilly, Va., and PCMall.com of Torrance, Calif.

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