Apple enhances Mac's enterprise credentials

Apple Computer Inc. will roll out several enhancements in its Mac OS X Server operating system later this month that are designed to make the platform better equipped to manage large networks of users.

Pairing the Unix-based software with its new Xserve rackmount server, Apple's plan is to give teams of dedicated Mac users room to grow and, perhaps down the road, win over some of the general-purpose server deployments currently dominated by PC servers running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software.

Among the new features in Mac OS X Server Version 10.2 are:

* NetBoot, which enables multiple Macintosh systems to boot up from the network server, instead of their local disk drives.

* Network Install, which automates the installation of Mac OS X and application software directly from the network.

* Workgroup Manager, for centralized management of users, groups and computers.

* Open Directory, a directory server based on the standard Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Version 3.

On the standards front, Apple has added support for MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group) for streaming live audio and video via the Web, the Web services standard Simple Object Access Protocol, several Java technologies and Simple Network Management Protocol.

"For a lot of people, it's still news that Apple is so firmly behind standards," said Brian Croll, senior director of software product marketing at Apple. "Because we've gone down the Unix and standards path, it brings us to parity with the rest of the world."

Mac OS X Server 10.2 will be included with new Xserve servers or sold separately for $499 for 10 clients or $999 for an unlimited client license.

As Apple endows Mac OS X with more enterprise-strength management features, many third-party software vendors are chipping in as well. For example, everStor Software Corp. last week started shipping the first version of its Replicator storage software to run natively on Mac OS. An unlimited user license costs $999.

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