Apple made the right choice to kill the Xserve

“On November 5th, 2010, Apple killed the Xserve,” Thomas Brand writes for Egg Freckles. “At the time I thought killing the Xserve was a mistake. Like so many thousand Macintosh IT Professionals I thought Apple’s future in the Enterprise was tied to the existence of a shiny 1U rack-mountable Macintosh server. Without it how would the PC System Administrators ever take us seriously?”

“Looking back it is easy to see that Apple made the right choice,” Brand writes. “By killing the Xserve we have better Macs, phones, tables, and Apple TVs today. Mac OS X is stronger without the Xserve. Because instead of getting trickle down technologies from its server OS, Mac OS X got better battery life, and millions of new users from its phone operating system. Take that Microsoft. It is funny to think that the death of the Xserve, and not because of it, Apple now has more Macs in the enterprise than ever before. PC System Administrators eat your hearts out.”

Much more in the full article here.


  1. Apple’s strength is in the user experience. This does not translate well to large server installations where rack-mounted servers run silently 24×7 and dollars per concurrent user is the main factor in hardware selection.

    Apple instead focused on the small business user, making OS/X server on Mac Minis both inexpensive and easy to implement with acceptable performance and low power consumption.

    A possible extension of this strategy is to bundle multiple Mac Minis in a single chassis, like a mini blade-server. You could probably squeeze quite a few minis into a 1RU chassis, but where is the demand for high powered apple servers?

    One of the major uses for servers used to be the provision of network storage, but this is now better served by NAS boxes. If you need lots of grunt to serve up database enquiries Linux handles this quite well on vanilla hardware. You could also deploy a Mac Pro, or two, with OS/X server.

    Time will tell. When the demand is there, Apple will make a box to suit. In the meantime Macs in large corporations play well with Office, SQL server and other entrenched Microsoft technologies running on Intel boxes.

  2. Gawd. I am not going to thrash through exactly why Apple gave up on the Enterprise, yet again. It’s a long, torturous history. But I will point out that Apple didn’t have enough demand for the hardware, nor enough income from OS X Server to stay in the market. That was an Apple hobby that didn’t adequately pan out.

    Meanwhile, having a decent Apple server is as easy as getting a mid-range Mac Mini, free Mavericks and tossing in a few bucks more for Mavericks Server. It’s not as powerful as OS X Server used to be, but it’s reasonable for most uses and hella-cheaper than the Microsoft dreck alternative.

    1. But those of us with a multitude of Macs still need to manage them. SUS is a prime example of a server function that is still needed. There are some services that you need a server for.
      All in all, I concur with you.

      1. I haven’t bothered to update to Server for Mavericks yet. Considering the thoroughly devastating reviews it’s getting at the Mac App Store, I may have a long wait. I have NEVER seen such scathing reviews of Apple software. Even the recent patch for Server was slammed. That’s Apple being self-destructive. What?!

        Clearly, Apple is not eating its own dog food regarding Server. Not a good thing.

  3. Apple killed them off because they were not consumer products.

    Apple is no longer primarily a computer company, but a consumer electronics company. The X-serve doesn’t fit into that new business model.

  4. but if.. you already have several xserves up and running, out of warranty and aging. Then you just replace it all with what exactly? the competition… Please mac minis are not even close to an xserve,link aggregation, fibre, dual power supplies, expansion slots.

  5. BS. The logic used in this article is absurd on the face of it.

    Discontinuing a rack-mountable product line did absolutely NOTHING to improve any of Apple’s other products.

    On the other hand, it created a small market for 3rd party manufacturers to make adapters so that the old Mac Pros could be rack-mounted, taking up vastly more space than would normally be required of an enterprise server — further upping the price and complicating the lives of people who have to justify such costs to their bosses.

    Now Apple’s forthcoming server-grade machine is going cylindrical, which will only drive another round of 3rd-party rack mount accessories. So again, Apple drives up the end user’s rack costs, Apple makes no additional money on the installation, and the resulting Mac looks like a round peg in a rectangular hole — with a rat’s nest of Thunderbolt cables yanking on the back of the CPU. Have Apple designers never set foot in a mobile studio, a recording booth, etc? Apparently not.

    Apple, you have the resources you need to make a rack-mountable machine and a mid-range internally-expandible PCI-supporting tower without compromising any of your existing products. Both of these are mainstay configurations in huge industries. What’s stopping you, Apple?

  6. This is the stupidest article I ever read. Was the old Xserve not as great as it should have been? Perhaps. That’s not a reason to kill it, that’s a reason to make it better. Has apple survived without Xserve. Sure, but they are still unable to penetrate the enterprise as well as they otherwise would with their great and virtually free server OS, than if they had a proper rack computer. Did killing Xserve give us better iPhones and macs? Of course not. Apple is a half trillion dollar company, they don’t have to spread themselves thin to make one more great product. How many computer models does Dell have? Tons more than Apple.

    No, this is intellectual laziness on Apple’s part. They looked at the numbers like a bean counter, not like someone planning for a great Apple future. Shame on you Apple. Usually you make a great product because the market needs a great product and ignore the numbers. This time you failed us.

  7. The Xserve was a noisy monster with poor onboard storage capacity options. The Xserve RAID, which was very reasonably priced for its time, was pretty solid but was expensive to upgrade if only because of the damned drive carriers.

    But that said, both devices were solid and super easy to access and repair. All the Xserves I know about are either still working to this day or were retired because of insufficient storage capacity. None of them that I know about failed, though I’m sure it must have happened somewhere.

    Apple’s abandonment of the Xserve presaged the stupification of OS X Server. 10.6 Server was well documented and highly configurable. 10.7 Server and beyond? You’re on your own. Hope it works ok for you.

    Apple totally surrendered the server market to Microsoft when they could have pressed the issue and diminished another one of Microsoft’s revenue streams. The rising popularity of Apple devices could have carried OS X Server along with it. Apple could have created hardware with more storage capacity and better management tools that IT professionals could trust.

    Instead, I have to explain to new Apple business enthusiasts that the Mac Mini is their only real option. They will need to get third party storage if they need more than 1TB. Also don’t think about using the Mail server. And don’t trust the Wiki for anything important. And the Calendar server doesn’t have any graceful way to share a global calendar to all users so don’t plan on that. The Profile Manager is a toy compared to the commercial MDM services. If the power supply goes out, you’ll just have to buy a new Mini and I’ll try to restore from backup. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. It is pretty good for simple file sharing though.

    So discontinuing the Xserve wasn’t a terrible idea, but they didn’t offer a real alternative. Kind of like discontinuing Final Cut Pro with the X version in such a sorry state. Professionals were relying on that software. When Apple does this kind of thing, it causes much more damage to them than producing marginally profitable server hardware.

  8. Apple should have continued production of the Xserve because it fit their philosophy of making “the whole widget” in our networked society. Obviously, the Xserve product line could not be as profitable as the consumer products, but the Xserves were good at hosting content for iOS devices, and the form factor was good for network centers, so they played an important role in the Apple ecosystem. Linux and Windows servers can handle many of these tasks, but the Xserve was a more natural fit for some things, like sending push notifications or graphics processing.

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