Daniel Eran Dilger
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Snow Leopard Server Takes on Exchange, SharePoint

snow leopard server
Daniel Eran Dilger
In addition to offering Mac and iPhone users the equivalent of a hosted, 20 GB Exchange Server mailbox with additional photo and video sharing features and better file management tools at a price far lower than any vendor could afford to offer hosted Exchange mailboxes, Apple is also building upon Mac OS X Server to deliver an Exchange and SharePoint alternative for companies who want to host their own messaging and collaboration services at a far lower cost than Microsoft charges.

Exchange your Exchange Server for Snow Leopard Server.
Mac OS X Leopard Server already provides Mail and an open source calendar server based on the CalDAV standard. In Snow Leopard Server, Apple will improve upon its Mail offerings with push messaging, and also add:

iCal Server 2, with support for group and shared calendars, push event notification just like Mobile Me, and a similar web based calendar interface that stays in sync with clients using iCal on the desktop and the iPhone.

iCal Server

Address Book Server is a new contacts service based on the new CardDAV standard for sharing vCard contacts. It works similar to how iCal Server currently shares iCalendar events. The new service will allow users to upload their local contacts to the corporate server for sharing with others. It also provides company address books that can be shared across groups. The new desktop Address Book can reference contacts served up by any number of server shared address book collections, and apps that look up contacts from Address Book will automatically gain access to remote contacts as if they were local.

Wiki Collaboration in Mac OS X Server will also see refinements, with a new iPhone-centric display served up by Snow Leopard Server that provides mobile users with a tailored interface to the hosted wikis, blogs, mailing lists, and RSS feeds on the server (below).


The revamped Wiki server will also support cross enterprise searching, Quick Look file previews, and a My Page feature that draws together company wide notifications and updates into a single interface. That’s a clear shot at Microsoft’s Share Point, which it sells independent of Exchange.

wiki server

So while Apple is promoting Exchange support in the iPhone and Snow Leopard, it’s also working hard to compete against it both in the business server side and as a consumer-friendly hosted service available by subscription. Both products will force Microsoft work harder to maintain its high pricing for Exchange Server.

 Wp-Content Uploads 2008 04 Rd-Images-Unknown

iPhone 2.0: Exchange vs Leopard Server
Apple – Server – Mac OS X Leopard – Snow Leopard

All Part of the Plan.
Apple isn’t just taking wild stabs in various desperate directions. Both Mobile Me and Mac OS X Server share a lot of the same technologies, and build upon the same client side efforts to support push messaging on both the Mac desktop and the iPhone. In other words, rather than just adding Exchange support to the iPhone and the desktop’s Mail, iCal and Address Book, Apple is also making all of them push savvy by using open standards, with the result of being able to offer Exchange-like services itself and in a server product that allows companies to host this locally.

Apple is also opening up various components of its push strategy to allow other platforms (that means Linux users) to benefit from the work it has already done. The Linux community is currently trying to just copy Microsoft. The main alternatives to Exchange Server in the open source world have been Yahoo’s Zimbra and Novell’s Ximian Evolution, both of which are Exchange clones.

By offering its standards based CalDAV calendar server as open source under the Apache 2.0 license, Apple hopes to give Linux users a free head start to move away from simply cloning Microsoft’s proprietary, unwieldy centralized database design and instead adopt a standards-based strategy built upon WebDAV; essentially, iCal Server is a specialized web server that distributes iCalendar events rather than HTML pages.

Apple is pursuing the same goal with its new Address Book Server (a web server that vends vCard contacts), and will similarly open source its standards-based web clients as well. This should entice the open source community (which includes heavyweights like IBM, Oracle, and Red Hat) to also invest in releasing Microsoft’s proprietary near-monopoly grip on messaging services and in its place create an open market (that is, open source and open competition) similar to what’s found in the existing web server arena.

Microsoft sells a web server, but it does not own that market. Incidentally, the web works a lot better than Exchange email does, and setting up a web server costs a whole lot less too.

WWDC 2008: New in Mac OS X Snow Leopard
Apple’s Open Calendar Server vs Microsoft Exchange
Using iPhone: iCal, CalDAV Calendar Servers, and Mac OS X Leopard
Apple’s Mobile Me Takes On Exchange, Mobile Mesh

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  • seth

    Yeah, too bad iPhone doesn’t support Apple Server the way it does Exchange. That is the killer. Even Google Apps? Come on Apple show some respect for your Server group. Not having iPhone support is a kick in the teeth to them.

  • jkundert

    Ya know, when Apple licensed the Exchange Server client a few months ago, MS probably thought to themselves, “man, what a coup!” I’ll bet they’re not smiling anymore…!

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  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    It’s intriguing just how much of yesterday’s iPhone exclusive keynote actually revolved around servers. It seems that Apple are pushing headlong in that direction, all under the very sellable and reasonable guise of end user needs. Great stuff, and a relief to see just how important the back end is in their unfolding game plan. More or less precisely as Dan predicted!

    As for all the other fortune tellers: where’s your front facing iChat iPhone iSight? That’s right: still in the labs, waiting for enough horsepower at a low enough power consumption to make it feasible. Sheesh.

  • geoffrobinson

    The Unix base of OSX should come in handy in these efforts. Just having everyone’s appointments in Exchange gives Microsoft a very strong stronghold. Anything to lessen their influence would be welcome.

  • Ajay

    Apple is using the traction its getting from iPhone to make a push into Microsoft’s business segment stronghold,

    Features in snow leopard offer a compelling alternative to exchange and will definitely gain them loads of SMB customers.

    But Apple solutions competing head on against Microsoft’s enterprise stack is still a few years away. For one, Sharepoint is also about sharing and working collaboratively on office documents, revision control, document history etc. its seems well integrated with office suite.

    Microsoft treats enterprise customers as primary market along with its OEM windows customers, which Apple is yet to do. Over years third parties have built solutions that make up where Microsoft falls short

    It took apple more than half a decade to slow down MS in the desktops, after they came up with a viable if not better alternative. during the same time ms has displaced (not just slow down) sun, ibm, novell, hp, and many other solutions providers from big enterprises. most of them have reduced to become service providers that offer solutions on top of ms platform. even sun going to bed with ms talks of how deep ms is now entrenched in enterprises.

    enterprises are just about the best customers to have. they judiciously keep track of their licenses, prefer to sign service contracts that stretch to years assuring them patches / upgrades and fat free money for ms. more often, they tend to have top class system teams that lead to lower support costs for ms. and they r slow to change because of hundreds of applications and customizations that take significant effort to update when changing platforms.

    i’m not saying Apple cannot do it. They will, if they want to, but it’ll be a slow march that will look more like a soap opera, and take years before Apple can show results in market share,

  • hodari

    Dan you are living in a fantasy world!. Welcome to the Enterprise Arena where Microsoft with Exchange and IBM with DOMINO have the control.

    With 50,000 users and a massive exchange infrastructure in place – do you honestly expect me to replace it with a product that is half baked?. If I can afford to employ 50,000, I certainly have enough petro dollars to pay Microsoft the licence fees, as well as have premier support where they can fly their tier 3 engineers anywhere in the world! – I am not sure if Apple is setup for Enterprise business yet.

    All this talk about back office etc may one day materialize. Exchange is not in gestation period. It is already born and is a grown up youth with big muscles. There may be some companies who would not mind putting Apple Server X in place and work through it and it reads well.

    But the reality is different. In a freezone where I have recently visited, 99% of the companies are WINDOW SERVER & EXCHANGE – period and Microsoft Small Business Server which you do not talk about I wonder why is light years ahead in terms of features, stability and price against any other MAIL/WORKGROUP product.

    Lastly, I am sure Apple has the muscle to overthrow Microsoft just the way Microsoft overthrew NOVEL as the King of File & Print Servers – except that was 1995 this is 2008 and counting.

  • Murrquan

    Technically speaking, Microsoft’s pretty well entrenched in the desktop PC business as well, but Apple’s done a darned good job of kicking their tails on that front.

    Apple knows that Microsoft owns the business world, as well that the techs that support and administer its IT infrastructure (and the managers justify IT spending). But they also know all the college students are switching to Macs. What kind of machines do you think they’re going to want to use in their start-ups?

    Moreover, while the larger and lazier corporations don’t see any need to stop paying the Microsoft tax, a smaller, more agile group might see this as a welcome opportunity to break the addiction, so to speak. Just like with desktop users, many people continue to use Microsoft products not because they’re the best solution, but because they’re so tied in that they can’t escape. Anything that Apple (or Free / Open-Source Software) can do to help these people escape is a bona fide Good Thing.

  • Nicky G

    This is actually in some ways, I think, the biggest news to come out of WWDC so far. When I was listening to the keynote I kept thinking “I wish I could sell my customers an in-house “mobile me” server so they could do all this cool stuff themselves, for all their employees, in a unified way!” Well, it seems obvious that Apple was thinking along those lines as well.

    Is Apple trying to get GE to adopt this for their entire corporation? I doubt it. But for every GE there are 100 if not a thousand if not 10,000 5-100 person businesses that NEED something like this, but have shied away from it. You would not BELIEVE how many companies actually still do calendaring ON PAPER, or using not-quite-there computer-based solutions that they always struggle against. Now an Apple VAR like me can come in, set them up with a single Xserve running OD and these basic services, and have them in good shape. ANd trust me, I KNOW that iCal Server in 10.5.x is a JOKE, a BAD joke.

    Now, the crazy thing is, the iPhone is the trojan horse that is going to get Xserve and 10.6 into the small-business server market — and this I believe eventually will lead to more desktop Mac sales in the business/pro market. Man, I am so in the right business right now — 5 years from now we will be SET. :-) (Already doing pretty well FYI, heheh!)

  • lmasanti

    “Now an Apple VAR like me can come in, set them up with a single Xserve running OD and these basic services, and have them in good shape.”

    Not having anything against you, I hope Apple could develop some application/help utility/etc. that let any non-technical person start a server and be guided to define and deploy all the apps and details of the Small/Medium Business needs.

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  • Nicky G

    lmasanti — Apple is much further along with regards to “easy to deploy servers” than anyone else out there. But fact is, a lot of folks just don’t want to be involved at all, they have better things to do that are more central to their business. Some folks want to tinker a wee bit, others don’t. But buying an Xserve and turning on/configuring some basic services? It’s pretty darned easy.

  • jltnol

    Well if only 10.5 Server worked to begin with!!

    I’ve had so many problems with it I’ve gone back to 10.4. However, I keep hoping that a viable 10.5 Server is one software update away.

    I plan on getting a new iPhone, and already have a Dot Mac account, but the ability to make it all work with with my server would be the icing on the cake..

    That, or the ability for Dot Mac to host 3rd party email accounts..

    Time will tell, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  • neoanderthal

    It’ll be interesting to see if Apple can pull a measurable amount of business out of the small-business sector. The biggest attraction will no doubt be the cost – for a small company, MS’ licenses really eat up funds. I recently set up two smaller companies with mail/web/collabo servers for 15 users, with small budgets – $1500 for the server solution (hardware and software). The people in charge were shocked to discover that of that $1500, they would *just barely* cover the cost of SBS 2003 and 15 total user licenses, and they still needed hardware. I ended up using a combination of HP Proliant hardware, Ubuntu Server LTS, and Zimbra’s collaboration suite. I came in under budget for them, which was nice, and things work great. I had considered OS X Server, but I couldn’t swing hardware and software within such a small budget going that route.

    Zimbra’s a pretty nice package – it has some prett cool features for Mac OS X, like OTA sync with a fair number of smartphones, iSync connector, etc., that are not present in the other *nix versions. I don’t really think it’s an Exchange clone, as much as it was designed to compete with Exchange in the business messaging arena – same as Sun’s JCS or Scalix.

    I’d have to say Apple’s server needs to at least offer some comparable features that Exchange does, if for no other reason than that the people buying the software will look to feature lists to determine which one is the better value. If Apple is trying to pitch the server to companies without a substantial Macintosh workforce, they will need to offer some pretty nice features for Windows users to get their attention.

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  • hodari

    Nicky G you call yourself a VAR ? – I quote you – “Now an Apple VAR like me can come in, set them up with a single Xserve running OD and these basic services, and have them in good shape. ANd trust me, I KNOW that iCal Server in 10.5.x is a JOKE, a BAD joke.” So you actually give your customers a “BAD joke” Eh ? Wow!.

  • hodari

    Murrquan – I agree that Apple with OS X has a done a very good job on the desktop. Although having used OS X for almost two years, I recently switched back to VISTA and I am very pleased with it. It is more to with the the platform (.NET Development) than the candy stuff that both apple and Microsoft seem to compete head on.

    You state “all the college students are switching to Macs. “. What students?. Could you please provide the stats for us?

    Your statement that the larger corporations are “Lazier” is incorrect. Large corporations, do not one day wake up and decide they want to switch. Secondly, to site you an example one of the largest corporation in the world that I have consulted with use Microsoft Platform extensively as well SUN. They awarded the largest contract to SUN $400,000 Million for hardware and services. That does not imply that large corporations do not study other platforms or solutions. They do. But there has to be a solid business justification to switch platform. There was one when they swtiched from NOVEL to Windows F&P Services back in 2005.

    Your statement about solutions – well it is not ready made solutions. It is the PLATFORM and the supporting development tools that is fundamental that allows large corporations to build custom solutions.

  • Nicky G

    hodari I think you misunderstood me — I was talking about once 10.6 comes out we might have a solid groupware solution. Our experiences with iCal make it anything but something I’d want to put our clients through.

  • hodari

    Nicky G – Sorry I was the under impression you were refering to existing code base. By the way I have nothing against Apple – I started my career on an Apple IIe writing device drivers in assembler 6502 but it is Microsoft Technologies that made me wealthy!

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