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The next move for Apple Xserve owners

Over one third of Xserve users will migrate to one of Apple's recommended alternative platforms - the Mac Pro or Mac Mini running OSX Server.

A survey conducted by the Enterprise Desktop Alliance, a collaboration among enterprise class software companies to deliver solutions that streamline the deployment, integration and management of the Mac in sophisticated Windows-centric IT environments, shows that Apple Xserve owners are considering a wide range of options in response to Apple's November 5th announcement that it will end shipment of the rack-mounted Xserve hardware platform on January 31st this year.

65 per cent of respondents expect to stay with their current Xserves for at least the next two years but, when the time comes to replace the hardware, over one third will migrate to one of Apple's recommended alternative platforms the Mac Pro and Mac Mini, both of which can run Apple's OS X Server software and are available in server-configured versions. Nearly as many respondents were unsure as to what solution they would choose for services they currently run on an Xserve. Most Xserve owners believe that the transition from the Xserve will not be more expensive than staying with their current system.

The online survey, conducted between November 8th to November 12th, includes responses from 1,200 commercial, government and educational users of Xserves who answered questions about their current uses of Xserve and their anticipated timing and plans for transitioning to other hardware.

The most popular use of the Xserve - 90 per cent of all classes of organisations - was as a file server. Of the top 10 uses for the Xserve eight were services that provide management support for the Mac desktops and laptops in their organisation. These include software update, directory services, workgroup manager, client management and related centralised administrative functions. Beside file server, the only other non-administrative use in the top 10 was as a web server.

"The Enterprise Desktop Alliance conducted this survey to provide an objective view of the services that organisations in each market segment operate on the Xserve today and how those organisations plan to deliver the services in the future," says T. Reid Lewis, president of Group Logic, a founding member of the Enterprise Desktop Alliance. "We want to help IT professionals make the best choices for their organisations arming them with an aggregate view of the plans of their peers."

EDA member companies provide solutions that allow organisations to leverage the Windows server platform to deliver essential administrative and productivity services to Mac laptops and desktops.

When asked how long they expect to keep their Xserves, 36 per cent of respondents said they plan to keep their Xserves "as long as the fan keeps turning" and another 30 per cent expect to keep using them for at least two years. The remaining 35 per cent think they will transition within one year.

When asked which system they will use once they do retire their Xserves, approximately one third of the organisations indicated that they plan to stay with Mac OS X server software on alternative Mac hardware. However for file services, a plurality said they plan to transition to Windows, and for web servers, to Linux. Nearly 25 per cent responded that they were unsure which system they would use for most services. "Unsure" was a popular answer to many questions in the survey - frequently the second or third most common choice - and accurately reflects the attitudes of these administrators at the time.

When it comes to the continued purchase of additional Mac laptops and desktops, 70 per cent of the respondents reported no impact on their organisations' inclination to buy more Macs for users.

"We were surprised by the announcement, but it doesn't affect our commitment to the Mac," comments Ross Kovelman, Manager, Information Technology at The Hobart Group, a marketing firm for Healthcare organisations in managed markets. "We expect to keep our Xserves as long as they are a viable solution and will look at Apple's server offerings when the time comes."

Owners of Xserves have a proportionally higher number of Macs than do most organisations. Among the respondents with more than 100 employees, 17 per cent of their laptops and desktops are Macs compared to 4.5 per cent among all organisations their size.

In almost all categories except XSAN replacement, the respondents acknowledged that it would cost the same or less to migrate to another platform. They were especially confident that migrating file services to Windows would be less expensive, though "Not sure" was the most common response for all of the other categories related to costs.

The Enterprise Desktop Alliance is hosting a webcast entitled Xserve Transition Options on Tuesday February 1st, 2011. monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.