Xserve marks the spot for Apple

By Ken Kerschbaumer

The Sports Video Group received an inside-look (literally) at Apple’s Xserve, a 1 RU server that is in its fifth generation and the final piece in the now-completed “Apple’s-Move-to-Intel-Processors” puzzle.

Xserve, announced in August, answers a lot of concerns broadcasters and others who might rely on it for video and audio content distribution, including the addition of a redundant power supply and a built-in graphics card, making one more card port available for use. Users will also get two dual-core Intel Zeon processors, an upgraded memory subsystem (with 32GB of RAM storage) and an upgraded disk subsystem.

“Xserve can be configured for tremendous amounts of storage, greater random access speed,” says Douglas Brooks, Apple product manager, server hardware, worldwide product marketing. “There are about a million different configurations.”

Those vary from adding a new 750 GB SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) hard-drive with perpendicular recording for high density and performance (and helping allow 1RU to store up to 2TB of data) to using an SAS (Serial Attached Scuzzy) hard drive. “The drives can be configured by bay so a user can mix and match for their exact needs,” says Brooks.

PCI Express technology has also been utilized, providing eight input/output slots, four times as much as the previous Xserve. “The high-performance interconnects deliver more bandwidth for better performance in handling video,” adds Brooks. “We really listened closely to feedback and features like the redundant, hot-swappable power supplies mean it can be used in more critical environments.”

Also helping users is a mini-DV connector that allows the server to be attached to a 23-inch screen for videowork while also allowing more air flow through the server. And even the small details, like a plastic slide-out “System ID card” that has bar-code information for inventory and maintenance needs is designed to make life easier.

“In addition, as soon as the server is plugged into a power and Ethernet port it talks remotely over a network to capture diagnostic data,” says Brooks. “It can even talk to it if it is turned off or hung up.” A command line tool is also available to let people get under the hood.

The new higher end 256 MB graphics card with dual-link DVI out for displays up to 32 inches can also help the sports video professional. “That’s important for video workflow and scientific or visualization environments,” adds Brooks.

The server ships later this month with $2,999 getting the user an Xserve with quad 2GHz Intel processors, 1 GB of RAM storage, an 80 GB hard drive, and a single power source. The system can also be de-configured to shave off some of the cost.

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