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Apple Xserve Is a Tasty Server

However, I wasn't quite so fond of all the product's aspects. (All you rabid Apple fans who may be tempted to deluge my inbox with hate mail, note that I am a longtime Intel user who is considering the Xserve for enterprise use.) Unfortunately, the Xserve requires a Macintosh machine for remote management in a graphical environment. You can get in via the console port or telnet/SSH into the machine, but that doesn't connect you with the ease-of-use server features that are the Xserve's main benefit. I also had trouble hooking up the Xserve to our older Cybex KVM (keyboard-video-mouse) equipment. Xserve does not support PS/2 ports, so I had to hook up the keyboard and mouse locally. This was inconvenient but surmountable.

One of the biggest problems I had to overcome using the Xserve--and the iBook Apple sent me to manage the Xserve--was getting used to the fact that there's no hidden setting or control panel. Everything is up front. I spent a lot of time thrashing around in search of things that were right in front of me. Once I realized I was making tasks harder than they had to be, I found the machine wonderfully simple.

U.S.S. Xserve

• A pleasure to use
• Functional and attractive case design

• Simple software upgrades

• No cable management
• Macintosh-only remote management
• Difficult to connect to legacy KVM schemes
Vendor Info
Apple Xserve, $2,799. Apple Computer, (800) 692-7753.

The Xserve is a sleek 1U silver rackmount unit with a stylish front panel (see photo below). The front panel features four removable, hot-swappable IDE drives and a fixed CD-ROM drive. There's also a trouble indicator, a machine-identification button, a power button, a locking mechanism for the case, and cool blue activity LEDs similar to those you would see on a 1980s car-stereo amplifier. The machine runs on a pair of Motorola PowerPC G4 chips with 2 MB of DDR (double data rate) Level 3 cache, with the chip core running at 1 GHz.

The main system memory is DDR SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) with a maximum of 2 GB. The Xserve comes with three PCI slots, two of them functioning at 66 MHz with a 64-bit data path and the other operating at 33 MHz with a 32-bit data path. Apple includes an on-board graphics card and the option of adding a 4x AGP (accelerated graphics port) card for those who want to use the machine in a racked workstation configuration. You also can get an optional Ultra3 SCSI card for external storage devices.

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