Apple Previews Mac OS X 10.5 'Leopard' Server
Published: June 14, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Apple Computer is not a normal Unix vendor, to be sure, but then again, what would you expect? The company dabbled in Unix in earlier decades, and in recent years has shifted to a BSD Unix platform for its Mac OS operating system, which runs on laptops, desktops, and servers based on both Power and X64 processors. This week, at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, the company's top brass announced a "near final" version of Mac OS X 10.5, code-named "Leopard," which Apple is billing as the most significant upgrade to Mac OS.
That is probably stretching it a bit. The move to Power-based processors in the 1990s and the resulting mix of technologies that made this jump possible was arguably a bigger move, as was the original choice to base Mac OS on the BSD Unix platform and giving it a pretty Mac face. That said, the Leopard update of Mac OS X is a significant update in a number of ways.
First, Leopard is fully Unix 03 compliant. Specifically, the forthcoming Mac OS X release is an Open Brand UNIX 03 registered product and conforms to the SUSv3 and POSIX 1003.1 specifications for C programming language APIs, shell utilities, and threads. The updated operating system also fully supports 64-bit memory extensions while maintaining 32-bit compatibility, so older applications can still run. Apple says that graphical system libraries--including Cocoa, X11, and OpenGL--can run as 32-bit or 64-bit processes now. The underpinnings of Leopard have also been tweaked so they can take advantage of the multicore processors from chip partner Intel, which is jamming two dual-core processors into a single chip package these days in the "Kentsfield" desktop and "Clovertown" workstation and server chips. Apple says that process schedulers and memory algorithms in the operating system have been rejiggered so they make better use of the extra cache memory and multiple cores in such chips. The TCP/IP stack, the NFS server, and the AutoFS automounter have all be rewritten by Apple to take advantage of multicore processors and POSIX thread allocation algorithms have been optimized for multicores using the NSOperation APIs. Leopard's NFS file system implementation now supports Kerberos authentication as well as the existing Unix user ID authentication method, too. The TCP/IP stack has been modified with self-tuning algorithms as well, which allow it to squeeze the best performance out of the bandwidth available on the network--and change itself as conditions change on the network.
Leopard also includes a variant of Sun Microsystems's Dynamic Tracing (DTrace) for debugging and profiling the performance of applications running on the operating system; DTrace is a key feature in Solaris 10 and is made available to Apple through the OpenSolaris project, which is the open source development effort for Sun's Unix. DTrace has been integrated into the Darwin kernel at the heart of Mac OS X and the Java, Ruby, Python, and Perl programming languages available for Leopard have been extended to be aware of DTrace. This means that programmers can monitor programs as they run or crash and figure out how to make them run better.
One of the neat new features on both personal and server Leopard machines is called Time Machine, which is an automatic backup utility that not only captures all of the data on your machine to an external storage device, but also preserves the entire state of your Mac OS desktop or server for every day that Time Machine is running. If you want to get an old file you had a year ago, you can go through the Spotlight search utility and get it using the Mac desktop setup and file configurations you had a year ago.
Leopard Server also includes file sharing with other Macs as well as Windows, Linux, and Unix machines, the Mail mail server, the iCal calendar server, the iChat chat server, and virtual private networking services. The server edition also has Xgrid grid computing integrated into it, as well as a Wiki server and a Podcast server. Interestingly, the Xgrid grid computing server can make use of Macs on the network to encode podcasts, and then host them on the server. A variant of online search called Spotlight Server is network-aware and can do across networks what Spotlight does for a desktop or laptop--find those needles in the haystacks of files. Apache 2, MySQL 5, Postfix, Cyrus, and a number of other tools have been ported into Leopard Server and run in 64-bit mode as well.
Leopard, which was expected to be shipping now, is going to ship in October. On desktop machines, Leopard will cost $129, and Apple will also ship a five-user family license for $199. Leopard Server will cost $499, with a 10-client version costing $999. Apple currently bundles an unlimited user license for Mac OS X 10.4 on its XServe X64-based servers. Presumably, the company will continue to do this.
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