Xserves power iTunes Music Store, 'America 24/7'

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The Xserve and Xserve RAID power the iTunes Music Store. It comes as no great surprise that Apple would use its own technology to power the iTunes Music Store, but the fact you haven't heard about it already is a great sign for Apple.

It was difficult to buy a song on the first day of business for the iTunes Music store, but since then it has been easy to connect, navigate, purchase and download songs and art from the store. If the store had crashed and burned in the first week, you would have heard long before now that Apple technology powered the company's ill-fated attempt at Music downloads.

But the store didn't crash and over 3 million songs have been sold in the initial weeks of operation. Apple based the store on Mac OS X Server and Web Objects 5.2 using Xserves and Xserve RAIDs to store the more than 200,000 songs available to the public.

America 24/7 is another recent success story for the Xserve and Xserve RAID. The site brings together the work of thousands of professional and amateur photographers documenting an ordinary American week. They photographed their homes, their families, their pets and their communities. Then they uploaded more than two million pictures to America 24/7's Mission Control in San Francisco, where they used Macs to do it all.

More specifically, the people behind the project, photographer Rick Smolan and Technology Director Chuck Gathard, chose Apple's Xserve rackmount server, the Xserve RAID and Mac OS X Server to be the backend of the entire operation. There were a variety of reasons for choosing the Mac, including overall cost and Mac OS X's ability to interact seamlessly with other operating systems.

"We needed to plan for terabytes of storage and we needed adequate processors -- the Xserve RAID was affordable for the amount of storage you get," Chuck Gathard told MacCentral. "I also liked the idea that I had less file system integration issues with the Mac OS than I would have with a Linux or Windows solution."

The return on the amount of money spent of the Apple Xserve systems also includes the man-hours it takes to setup and maintain the servers, as well as the technical support needed for all the people involved in the project.

"We went out to system integration companies and they were giving us quotes of $250,000 to this with multiple redundant servers and so on," Rick Smolan said in a recent interview with MacCentral. "One day Chuck said, 'why don't we just go to Apple and get a couple of Xserves -- it's better, faster and simpler and I can do the whole thing myself.'

The group uses PowerBooks, iMacs and Power Macs for various aspects of the project, from ftp access to photo manipulation.

"We've been amazed by the idea of sending out 1,000 photographers, 2,000 students and 2,000 stringers, but it's the data manipulation that is the revolutionary part in all of this," said Smolan.

Ten thousand images capturing the spirit of America will be published in 53 large-format volumes. The America 24/7 series will include a national volume (published in November, 2003) and one volume for each state plus New York City and Washington DC, all published on the same day in October 2004.

This story, "Xserves power iTunes Music Store, 'America 24/7'" was originally published by PCWorld.

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