Leopard Server: The people's UNIX

Mac OS X v10.5 is true UNIX on the inside, novice admin friendly on the outside, and born for collaboration, with turnkey-simple blog, wiki, IM, and calendar services

Just add users

Wiki, blog, calendar, and instant messaging are pulled together as Web services, and Apple took a brilliant approach. When you create a new user on Leopard Server -- of course, you can link to Windows Active Directory and arbitrary LDAP directories as well, with Leopard providing single sign-on -- Leopard Server sets up homes for the user's blog and calendar and shared address book ("Directory"). When you create a group, Leopard Server automatically wires that group's members into selected Web services, with configurable access by users outside the group. For example, the group gets its own Wiki and group mailing list, and a calendar that permits full-group invites. That's just a hint of the "do it in one place, it shows up everywhere" integration that's familiar to Mac client users. It is just as pervasive in Leopard Server.

It's clear that Apple let its creative and technical wizards run wild in Leopard Server just as they did in Leopard client, and as with Leopard client, I can't hope to run down the list of Leopard Server's new features. I can point to an example of Apple's assembly of its own technology to blow users' minds. Podcast Producer sounds like a desktop tool, but it's a major innovative leap in back-end services. Podcast Producer is server-side automation for podcast workflows. It takes media content uploaded by users, carries it through a workflow that includes grid-based media format transcoding, and posts it to a targeted podcast site, yours or Apple's (iTunes and iTunes U). Mac users running Leopard have an application called Podcast Capture that is the front-end for Leopard Server's Podcast Producer. Just record it, assemble other bits you want to take along, send it, and it magically appears in the right place in the right format; those are details that users no longer need to worry about. They can if they must, but the speed and quality of the automated approach -- this is one area where Leopard Server scales out of the box -- exceeds what most shops could do with custom code.

And that makes a fitting closing point. Below the datacenter level, where the expectation of serving millions of external users is wired into planning, there's often no reason for servers to be complicated beasts. Ideally, they should look no scarier to administrators than they do to users. There is no question that complexity is a show-stopper for small to medium businesses, independent professionals, and budget-limited organizations that really need to just dump an Xserve or Mac Pro in the most convenient spot, hook one cable to the LAN and one to the WAN, and go live with blogs, wikis, internally-hosted IM, and podcasts while taking care of the basics such as firewall, viruses, and spam. For that last garnish that finishes the dish, know that scalability is relative. An Xserve or Mac Pro with a hardware RAID adapter, or an outboard Xserve RAID, can handle more simultaneous users than you'd expect. Don't base your expectations on what Windows and Linux PCs can do. Leopard is a different beast that could easily be the only collaboration server that an organization of modest size requires.

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Tom Yager

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