Tiger Server: Open source made easy

Continuing with its open-source theme, Apple on Friday will release Mac OS X Tiger Server v10.4. The new server software relies on new open-source projects to implement many of its new features, including an iChat server and mail enhancements.

“Tiger Server is going to be a wonderful product for us,” Eric Zelenka, Apple’s senior product line manager, Server and Storage Software, told MacCentral. “If you look back at the maturity and innovation, it just keeps getting better and better. Our decision to integrate lots of open source projects into the server is really starting to pay off for us — you can see that with some of the things we are delivering.

Tiger server boasts integration of more than 100 open-source projects and standards-based software applications. Among those is the iChat Server, based on Jabber. iChat Server allows administrators to deploy their own instant messaging within an intranet. It supports SSL/TSL encryption, works with Apple’s iChat conferencing software, and is compatible with open source Jabber clients available for Windows, Linux and various PDAs.

“What the iChat server does is give you secure instant messaging,” Zelenka said. “How many organizations don’t realize the instant messages they are sending are not secure or encrypted — this is a huge issue for a lot of companies. The iChat server is designed to integrate within a companies infrastructure.”

Another big milestone for Tiger Server is the move to support 64-bit applications. While this won’t affect the average user, Zelenka said this is a huge plus for the life sciences field, an area Apple has been targeting lately.

“64-bit computing is one of those things that everyone is trying to get to and we are delivering in Tiger Server,” Zelenka said. “This allows individual processes and applications to access more than 4GB of RAM at a time.”

In supporting 64-bit processes, Apple said that 32-bit applications will suffer no performance degradation, which Zelenka credited to the way 64-bit was architected into the operating system.

Among other services that have changed in Tiger Server, Apple focused a considerable amount of resources on the mail server. Specifically, an adaptive junk mail filtering system using spam assassin and virus protection were introduced.

“If you look at how vulnerabilities come into a company, you will see they are coming in through the mail system,” Zelenka said.

Also new in this release is Weblog Server, which simplifies the publication of Weblogs. It provides users with the ability to publish and syndicate their Web content using existing Web browsers, including Apple’s own Safari software. Features include calendar-based navigation, user and group blogs and HTML, RSS, RSS2, RDF, and ATOM protocols, as well as “Apple-designed blog themes.” Weblog Server can also integrate with Open Directory, LDAP and access control lists for authentication.

Mac OS X Server v10.4 also touts Xgrid, a distributed computing technology which can turn groups of Macs on the networking into a virtual supercomputer. Xgrid assists in assembling nodes, submitting jobs and retrieving results once data have been processed — it’s suitable for scientific computing, animation and rendering and digital content creation.

Other new features in the server software include support for Access Control Lists and native file permissions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 Active Directory environments; a Software Update Server that lets administrators host their own proxy or cache server to control the availability of Apple’s own software updates; Gateway Setup Assistant, used to set up network services for small businesses including DHCP, NAT, DNS, and port routing; and Ethernet Link Aggregation and Network Interface Failover with support for the IEEE 802.3ad standard, which allows for multiple hardware network interfaces to appear as a single interface.

“Tiger Server has a little bit in it for everyone. We are making open source easy to use,” Zelenka said.

Mac OS X Tiger Server will cost US$499 for a 10-client edition or $999 for an unlimited-client edition. Subscribers to the Apple Maintenance Program will get Tiger Server for free; anyone who has bought a new Xserve G5 since April 12, 2005 can get Tiger Server for $10.

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