Why Steve Jobs killed the Xserve

“It has been a little over four years in the desert for those of us who use Apple Xserves — or any Apple hardware as a server,” E. Werner Reschke writes for T-GAAP. “Since the fateful announcement on November 5, 2010, when Apple announced they were discontinuing the Xserve product line, many Mac IT professionals have been been disheartened that Apple never reversed this decision.”

“Its market was IT professionals. When Apple decided to make the jump to the Cloud, first with MobileMe and then with iCloud, Apple had a decision to make: What servers would they use, en mass, to build out their server farms?” Reschke writes. “While they had excellent hardware for the task, the problem was on the software side of the fence. OS X, while a great desktop OS, has never been the best server product. Moreover OS X does not allow for multiple servers to be virtualized into being seen as a single box. Into today’s world of virtualization and massive cloud server farms, making multiple servers work as one is critical (just as critical as RAID and redundant power supplies). This also coincided with the launch of iOS. Could Apple really spend resources on two new OSes?”

Reschke writes, “Jobs therefore decided to go with HP Proliant Servers for Apple’s iCloud build-out and kill the Xserve project.”

Much more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s not that OS X couldn’t have been a great industrial-grade server OS, it’s just that it wasn’t. Apple could no longer market Xserve when they clearly weren’t choosing it for their industrial-strength needs. You either eat your own dog food or you stop selling it.


  1. IOW, Apple made a business decision that it wasn’t worth the time and effort to develop OS X Server into a modern, robust server, even if it was just going to be for Apple’s internal use. Apple decided to spend its resources on iOS development, which has proven to be a very good decision.

      1. Mac -> Xserve versus Mac -> iOS

        Considering the server options available to Mac users today, as a Mac user, I’d much rather go with iOS being developed if it was a decision between Xserve and iOS.

          1. The decision isn’t present time, the iOS versus Server development was a decision pre-2007. Apple had about 12 billion in cash back then, but more relevant was how many developers they had who could handle such things.

    1. OS X Server wasn’t good enough for massive cloud installations so nobody needs it at all? Boloney.

      Discontinuation of the Xserve was merely the first of Apple’s failures to serve the professional market. There was plenty of need for the Xserve, or even just some kind of box with more storage capacity than a Mini.

      The Xserve’s departure was followed shortly afterwards by:
      1) the marginalization of OS X Server into barely-documented $20 toy-like status
      2) the destruction of Final Cut which has never recovered
      3) the giveaway to Adobe of the Aperture users

      All of the above, and there’s more, indicate that Apple is more interested in the volume sales of consumer machines and the pro users who carried the company through the lean years can just piss off.

      1. I agree with Apple putting professionals on the back burner.

        Even the Mac Pro is hamstrung as anyone doing serious graphics and numerical computing (me!) needs to be able to update graphics cards without buying a new Mac Pro every time, and have nVidia options.

        I wish there was a Mac Pro I could use. 🙁

        1. I don’t deny that Apple have become more consumer oriented (although to be fair, pro industries are evolving, and will continue to evolve) but the Mac Pro is more upgradeable than you think (http://blog.macsales.com/22108-new-mac-pro-2013-teardown), and you can do a lot with Thunderbolt, that’s the thing everyone seems to miss. I love mine, for tasks that take advantage of it’s power, it destroys other machines. Honestly though, the iMac or Macbook Pro is plenty powerful for things like graphics and design. Unless you are doing Hyperion level rendering or serious scientific calculation, I have trouble believing any top of the line Mac won’t work for you, and they still have a great deal of longevity, that hasn’t changed.

    1. “no 24x7x365”

      Seven years, right? 24 hours a day times 7 days a week times 365 weeks is about 7 years. 😉

      As opposed to 24x7x52, I guess, but no one ever write that.

    2. re “And that’s why Apple will never take over business.”

      An important business principle is, “Do not try to be all things to all people”. I’d suggest this has served Apple VERY well, so far.
      They also seem to have more sense of how to proceed STRATEGICALLY than the rest of the computer and mobile industries put together.

    3. Apple doesn’t want to take over business by selling a few servers, they want to take over business by selling all of the devices in the office that connect to the server. And they’re making progress that way.

      Apple still sucks for abandoning the Xserve though.

  2. It’s a bad sign when a computer company has to use someone else’s products to provide essential services. Apple should have worked on turning OS X into a server platform instead of throwing in the towel.

    Bad move and it doesn’t bode well for the future of OS X development.

    1. It’s a bad sign when a company keeps wasting its time and money building every single thing they need themselves from scratch, instead of focusing more on what the company does uniquely better than everyone else. Especially when the off-the-shelf options are much more reliable and less expensive than what that company has built in the past to fill that need.

  3. Just because the author doesn’t know how to provide virtualization etc. under OS X, doesn’t mean OS X server cannot do it. Nonetheless, he’s right. Apple isn’t a server company.

    Personally I just want the OS X Server product to work reliably. I’m not asking for giant Dropbox, Inc. server farms. I just want the OS X Server product to be solid, as bug free as possible, well documented, etc. I’d like to be able to speak to people from Apple who know more than “click install and you’re done.” I have better things to do with my time than ferreting out where my contact/calendar data is, and building SQL apps to recover data etc. I have much better things to do with my time than backing out updates to go back to Mavericks server.

    Quite frankly, I’m as happy as anyone with Apple’s success, but I’m sick of hearing about cars and watches and trillion dollar companies, when the bread and butter systems are bug sewers as of late. I don’t even feel comfortable stating what Apple’s core competency is anymore. Who knows?

    Fashion Electronics? Is that the category? I can almost smell the perfume next to the Apple Watch display at Macy’s.

    If so, that’s wonderful. I hope they make gazillions of dollars. I’ve worked very hard over the years to move people off Windows and onto Mac, I can also take them on over to Linux which is starting to look more appealing every day.

    Linux is starting to have the clean, simple, dependable, NOISE FREE feel the Mac used to represent. No iClouds, no ecosystems, just a nice, simple OS. My first reaction used to be not wanting a system that depending on developers in every nook and cranny of the world working out of the kinds of the hearts, but when I can’t depend on Apple to just fix the WiFi problems next release instead of shoving in a new Photo’s app, what’s the difference?

    Linux is definitely on my list of conversions for servers this year.

    There is a concept out there that states iOS devices have a halo effect causing people to try Macs. I believe the real halo has been the legions of tech people who preach the Apple gospel to their users. When those people start leaving for other products, then Apple does become SONY.

    When I bought my first iPod I bought it because of OS X compatibility. When I bought my first iPhone, again I bought it not just because it was beautiful, but because of OS X compatibility. Take OS X out of the equation and I have no more loyalty to iOS.

    1. I don’t know what to do anymore. I have grown very frustrated maintaining our Mac Servers. It use to be I would set one up and just forget about it. The past two years have become progressively more difficult.

      Our office is 100% mac. I don’t want to install and maintain another OS. I just wish Snow Leopard Server could run on the newer hardware.

      1. I fully agree! I even wish I could easily serve web pages with Mavericks! I know, it can be done but it’s not as easy as it was in Snow Leopard.

      2. Agreed. I spent a considerable amount of money for education and certification in OS X Server 10.4-10.6. Now I dread setting up a new installation for fear the client might want to use a service more complicated than file sharing or VPN.

    2. I started my current company when Xserve was still an option (although the writing was on the wall). I went with Linux for our servers and couldn’t be happier.

      I agree with everything you said though. OS X Server really needs some attention as not everybody is going to want to go to Linux.

      1. Do you have any blog post or some such information as what distro you used etc.. Would love to set up an alternative as soon as possible. Apple watch is not going to make things better….

    3. Thelonius Mac: as usual, you have nailed it! “Take OS X out of the equation and I have no more loyalty to iOS.”

      And maybe for me, also to the Mac. User since 1988.

      Furthermore, I wonder if the high school kid “consumers” of iOS have any clue that without OSX, there would be no iOS apps.

      They see it like they see everything else, everything just falls from the clouds or something, their food comes from a super market, etc.etc. Trust me, I work in a high school and love the kids, but they are by far the least situationally aware generation I have ever seen. I used to think there was a problem when they couldn’t change a flat tire, now the question is: what’s a spare tire? call mom!

      I fear that attitude is infecting Apple. iOS is the star and OSX is the red headed stepchild. Are you gong to write iOS apps on Windows? Maybe on Linux as you say.

      Personally, I have bought my last iPad. When I can get an 11 inch Macbook Air for mobile use, who in their right mind would use iOS unless you are just a “consumer” of content. But most of the customers are, and they live in “consumer” fantasyland. We shall see where it all goes.

      TOTALLY agree on the halo effect.

    4. “I can almost smell the perfume next to the Apple Watch display at Macy’s.” Absolutely right Thelonious Mac. You have perfectly verbalised the way I’ve been feeling more and more often about Apple. They continue to abandon the people who kept Apple afloat during the dark years as they march down the road of consumer fluff. Abandoning Aperture is the final straw for me and I’m actively looking for another way, perhaps Linux is it. Judging by the number of people in broad agreement here, Apple would do well to look at these comments.

  4. Sadly… the software version of OS X Server isn’t nearly as good as it used to be. I understand the relentless push to move everything and everybody to the cloud, but that comes at a cost.

  5. The Xserve was a great server and we still use a half dozen of them today (along with Xserve RAIDs).

    That being said, I have an extra Xserve 3,1 (2009 / 8-Core / 2.66 GHz) with internal RAID card if anyone is interested 🙂

    I’m serious — it’s in excellent condition, running Yosemite.

  6. Steve understood that you have to be very careful about who your customer is. Microsoft doesn’t make excellent consumer products because their largest and most important customer group is IT departments, who have different needs.

    Apple must stay entirely consumer-focused.

  7. Apple could easily make a file/print/email/web server for small business that could include Mac client images and backups with user authentication for internal and remote use that could “just work”. Business of 10 to 100 people could install it and run it for years without any I.T. Support staff at all. Businesses would buy this server by the boat-load. I’ll bet this could be a $10B Per year business. I’ll bet they could even get Exchange to run on such a box. Client software license control could be a snap.

    Ps: I have no confidence on “cloud” backups for such small business. I’m a dinosaur.

    1. I just bought an 09 Mac Pro tower with Snow Leopard for $250 that will be my primary back up machine, the backup of my highest priority files by manual drag and drop. Then I will no EXACTLY what happens with my files, won’t just hope that the operating system does its “untransparent” operation. Yes I will use Time Machine, but not for the stuff that is critical to my business.

  8. Steve Jobs, being on the inside with great IT guys, was extremely well informed about how servers and data centers were moving forward and what the IT system software would have to run on.

    How many dollars can you save or make by making your own server?

  9. This explanation has some merit, so no flames from me. But there was a lot more going on.

    One naughty fallacy in the article,:
    Moreover OS X does not allow for multiple servers to be virtualized into being seen as a single box

    That’s a RUBBISH statement. It’s called Apple Xsan, and it’s still available today, even for OS X 10.10 Yosemite. It doesn’t just work with old XServes either:


    1. And furthermore, before the XServe was killed, up until the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple also offered Xgrid:


      It provide[d] network administrators a method of creating a computing cluster, which allows them to exploit previously unused computational power for calculations that can be divided easily into smaller operations, such as Mandelbrot maps.

      Homework journalists! Homework.

  10. Apple could have undoubtedly kept their easy-to-manage Xserve / OS X Server going and improving; unfortunately they never gave the Server software the commitment of competent development / support manpower it so badly needed – support was just awful. I’ll bet that it wouldn’t have cost them much more to do it right.

    I am still running Server 10.5 on an old Xserve in a small corporate environment, and its doing OK; years ago we paid like $1,000 for Server 10.6, but I could never migrate to it after repeated tries because Apple’s Server Migration Tool software was full of bugs and just ghastly bad. We’ve increasingly had to move mission-critical services off it over time – finally outsourced E-mail, and moved DHCP to Windows Server. The rest of it will have to go eventually, sad.

    What terrifies me, as someone involved in a good-sized company with over 100 people heavily using easy-to-support iMacs / minis for business, is Apple’s gradually morphing the hardware / OS X into iOS devices, which are *N*O*T* suited for gritty day-to-day business environments, no matter what nonsense people spout about this. For example their laptops have recently morphed into quasi-iPads with conveniently-attached keyboards. I can’t figure out just what it is they expect to do with their much-vaunted IBM business partnership, as they continue to transform into the 21st century version of Sony.

  11. It’s very odd that Apple is so two-faced with business people. The poor IT sods that persuaded their bosses to invest in Xserves got the rug pulled out from underneath them with just 3 months notice (the business equivalent of deciding *not* to get married the day before the wedding).
    Businesses committed to iWork got the same treatment with the iCloud ‘upgrade’ fiasco as did creative pros with Final Cut Pro and more recently with Aperture.

    It’s extremely discouraging to see Apple displaying such obdurateness.

    1. But what does that have to do with my iPhone and my iPad and my iTunes, after all I cannot live without my music to insulate me from the world. OSX, what is that? (sarcasm alert now switched off)

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