Saturday, December 27, 2008

Xserve Lights-Out Management Firmware Update 1.1 available

Apple released Xserve Lights-Out Management Firmware Update 1.1 on Thursday. It's for Intel-based Xserves only, and will update your firmware to version 1.2.8. The Xserve I manage at work is a G5, so no update for me. Here's what I'm missing, according to Apple:

"This update includes changes to the Lights-Out Management environment of the Intel-based Xserve. It addresses the intermittent issue that causes the LOM port to be unresponsive. This update is strongly recommended for all Intel-based Xserve systems."

You can read the Knowledge Base article here.

Parallels Server for Mac available now

In October, when Apple introduced a change in policy allowing Leopard Server to run in a virtual environment on Apple hardware, Mac IT geeks everywhere looked forward to the day that they could run Windows Server, Linux and OS X Server all off their pretty Xserves. That day is today, because Parallels Server for Mac is now out of beta!

According to Parallels, this is the "...first server virtualization software to run on Intel-based Xserves...and to power VMs running on the Mac OS X platform." Similar the the Parallels Desktop product, Parallels Server lets you run virtual instances of different operating systems on top of OS X Leopard Server, including Leopard Server. The next beta of VMWare's Fusion, which like Parallels Desktop is a consumer product, will support Leopard virtualization as well, but Parallels Server is a little different and aimed at a different market.

The difference is that the hypervisor used in Parallels Server is hardware optimized and takes advantage of Intel's VT-x acceleration (which new XServe and Mac Pros have) to provide a more robust experience with better allocation of resources and memory. This makes the experience much more akin to running a completely separate machine, as opposed to running one OS on top of another.

Yesterday, we reported on Media Temple's new (xv) project, which is the first official service that will be run on Xserves running Parallels Server for Mac. The (xv) will be running multiple VMs of Leopard Server, but Parallels Server can also support Linux (Debian, SUSE, Red Hat and Ubuntu), Windows (Server 2008, Vista, XP and Server 2003 and Windows 2000) and FreeBSD 6 and 7 as guest OSes. So if you run your website off of CentOS (which is based off of Red Hat Enterprise) but your company network runs off of Leopard Server, you can do both off of one Xserve.

Make no mistake, this is an enterprise product, and as such, it is pricey. Parallels Server for Mac is $1248.75 for the software and one-year of support and maintenance and that's before you add in the cost of any software licenses you might need, but that's still a lot less expensive than another Xserve.

For enterprise users who are interested in virtualization, definitely check out the free trial.

Apple updates Mac OS X server to 10.5.5

With Mac OS X 10.5.5 on the update list for the day, Apple has also decided to release a number of shiny, happy updates for the Mac OS X Server geeks among us. At the top are two versions of Mac OS X 10.5.5:
If you don't wish to update to 10.5 yet, don't worry about it, you can still apply the Security Update 2008-006 that is included in the OS X 10.5.5 server update. This update, available for PPC & Intel Servers running Mac OS X 10.4, weighs in at 118 MBs.

Once you are done with those wonderful happy not so fun system updates and reboots, why not give the "WebObjects Update 5.4.3 for Mac OS X 10.5 " update a whirl?

And there you have it, all the Enterprise updates from Apple today! We know what all the IT people around the country will be doing tomorrow. Rebooting at least once.

Apple Xserve Field Guide

Attention Xserve administrators: Apple has created an Xserve Field Guide web app that can you can use to jog your memory when you're standing in front of a server and can't remember how to perform some manual task.

The web app is designed to be viewed on a Mac, iPhone, or iPod touch, and requires Safari as the browser. If you need to identify what model of XServe you're working on, want to know how to install spare parts, would like to decode what blinking lights on the Xserve mean, or even determine how to choose a startup drive using the system identifier button, it's all in this web app.

You can visit the web app from your favorite browser here:

or from your iPhone at this URL:

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Mac Pros and Xserve

Well, as Nik posted a bit earlier this morning, the Apple Store is indeed down worldwide. As commenters in that post noted, Apple has updated the Mac Pro line before major trade shows before, and as commenter John pointed out, Apple has just updated the front page of announcing upgrades to the Mac Pro and Xserve line. I think it's a pretty safe bet that these machines will be available as soon as the Apple Store comes back online.

So what are the specs? For the Mac Pro the machines are now 8-core standard (!) running up to 3.2 Ghz each (and this is on the new 45 nanometer Quad-Core Xeon). "Fastest Mac ever" is a phrase bandied around a lot -- but in this case, it's absolutely true.

From the press release, the basic configuration ($2799 US) includes:
  • two 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors with dual-independent 1600 MHz front side buses;
  • 2GB of 800 MHz DDR2 ECC fully-buffered DIMM memory, expandable up to 32GB;
  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT with 256MB of GDDR3 memory;
  • 320GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
  • 16x SuperDrive™ with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW);
  • two PCI Express 2.0 slots and two PCI Express slots;
  • Bluetooth 2.0+EDR; and
  • ships with Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse.
Full CTO options are detailed in the press release linked above.

As for the Xserve, it now includes built-in accelerated graphics to drive up to a 23" Cinema Display and front facing USB 2.0 ports. It is also taking advantage of the new Intel 45 nanometer core technology.

The basic configuration ($2999 US) includes:
  • a single 64-bit 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Xeon processor with 12MB of L2 cache and a 1600 Mhz front side bus;
  • 2GB of 800 MHz DDR2 ECC FB-DIMM RAM, expandable up to 32GB;
  • a single 80GB SATA Apple Drive Module;
  • dual Gigabit Ethernet on-board;
  • internal graphics;
  • two FireWire® 800 and three USB 2.0 ports; and
  • an unlimited client license for Mac OS X Server version 10.5 Leopard.
The unlimited client license for Leopard OS X Server is pretty fantastic, as are the power and cooling specs. Full configuration details can be found in the press release here.

Apple ships RAID cards for Mac Pro and XServe

Let me ask you something: do you like fast storage? Redundant, fast storage? Lots and lots of gigabytes of fast, redundant storage? Sure you do, buddy -- but what's with the software RAID on your Mac Pro or your Intel-based XServe? That's so last week, now that Apple is shipping the RAID cards for Mac Pro and XServe; you can now do hardware RAID 0, 1, 5, or (Mac Pro only) 0+1 arrays of SATA drives, or superfast SAS drives on the XServe, for the precise mix of speed and reliability that you're craving.

Formerly only available as build-to-order options but now shipping as add-in parts for $999 each, the cards come with a raft of requirements. First, they're only for the machines mentioned above; G5 XServes are out of luck. Second, you can't mix and match drive types on the XServe, it's all SAS or all SATA please. Third, a minor point, barely worth mentioning really, but both these cards are listed as requiring some sort of OS update. Yes, on the heels of this morning's announcement of the MacBook revisions, we now have a total of three pieces of Apple hardware that demand Leopard to work at all.

Update: Clarified that the cards were previously available as BTO parts. Note that even though the specifications say Leopard-only for these cards, existing RAID cards (and possibly these as well, for anyone brave enough to spend a grand to test them) continue to work with Tiger.

Apple launches Xsan 2

In addition to dropping the price on the Shuffle (and introducing the 2 GB version), today's big Apple store update appears to be the launch of Xsan 2. Xsan is Apple's Storage Area Network (SAN) file system, and while this update isn't as sexy as a new consumer laptop update, it's still pretty cool.

Xsan 2 has been received some significant updates; not only is it now fully compatible with both OS X Leopard and OS X Server Leopard (in fact, Leopard is required to run Xsan 2), it is also now qualified to work with third-party RAID storage.

Even more exciting (at least for anyone who has been holding out for some kind of Final Cut server solution) is the introduction of what Apple is calling, MultiSAN. MultiSAN, according to Apple, "[allows] users on a single workstation to access multiple SANs at the same time." Using the video editing example, this means that a segment producer could access both a broadcast and b-roll volume from the same machine. Additionally, the administration tools have been redesigned. Administrators can now create pre-set volume workload settings for different file types/purposes.

To be clear, this is an enterprise product. Xsan 2 is available now for $999 US. Xsan 2 is qualified to work with the Xserve, Mac® Pro and Apple Fibre Channel PCI-X cards, as well as qualified Fibre Channel switches and RAID storage hardware from third-party vendors.

Update: As Tim in the comments pointed out, it appears that Apple's Xserve RAID device is no more. The page now re-directs here, with a link to Promise's RAID solution.

Pro Applications Update improves performance and stability

Apple has released Pro Applications Update 2008-04, which includes updates to Final Cut Pro, Compressor, Color, DVD Studio Pro, Cinema Tools, Motion, Soundtrack Pro and Shake. The update, according to Apple, "addresses general performance issues and improves overall stability."
No specific details were provided about what the update improved about each software component, other than to say each update "addresses specific customer issues and general performance issues." The updates are recommended for all users of the software.
The update includes the following versions:
  • Final Cut Pro 6.0.5
  • Compressor 3.0.5
  • Shake 4.1.1
  • DVD Studio Pro 4.2.1
  • Cinema Tools 4.0.1
  • Motion 3.0.2
  • Color 1.0.3
  • Soundtrack Pro 2.0.2