Intel Xserve

Got a chance to lay my hands on an Intel Xserve this week (thankyou Apple!), so here are some of my impressions. Not that I’ve ever unpacked an Xserve before, but it comes with a big plastic bit bolted on the front to protect the drive bays during shipment.
Plugging it in (two power cords!) then it’s time to find a mini-DVI to VGA cable (you’d think when you pay AU$11000 or thereabouts for a machine that it might come with a video cable, even if you do want to run it headless) and option-boot it off the Mac OS X Server install DVD. I’ve got a Microsoft mouse plugged in at this stage, and the Open Firmware (ok, I mean EFI 🙂 boot selection screen doesn’t quite talk to the mouse correctly, such that the cursor can only be scrolled up and down (not left or right). Fortunately the tab key still works so I can select the boot DVD and restart with the ‘return’ key.

Erase and install is uneventful. The setup process now lets you set up the lights-out management on either the default or a different IP address.

The machine is quite loud though. Server Monitor tells me that everything’s normal, including temperature and fan speed. Fortunately it’s in the server room and not in my office. Server Administrator has cool graphs showing the load on the quad 64-bit Xeon CPU’s 🙂

Of course, one of the power cords isn’t quite arranged correctly, so I just have to unplug one of them to see the dual power supplies at work. It doesn’t miss a beat. Sweet. I especially like this as I know so many people who’ve had their machines go out because the UPS has failed (after all, adding another device to the power supply chain is adding another point of failure). I’d hedge my bets and plug one cable into the UPS and one into the mains, both on separate circuits, if possible.

Strangely Apple Remote Desktop doesn’t seem to be version 3, which is what I would have expected. It ships with Mac OS X Server 10.4.8 Build 8N1215. It has Java version 1.5.0_06-113 and “JavaVM 1.5.0_06-68, mixed mode”, which is not what ships on anything else as far as I know. Fortunately everything will be brought into parity with other Macs as of Mac OS X 10.3.9 which is due out Real Soon Now.

Of course the reason I’ve got the Xserve is that it’s got a slightly different OS (and other) installation to all other Macs, which means it brings with it its own bugs. Sadly that means I’ll be using it for debugging, not for Cool Stuff(TM). Now all I need is to be able to afford one myself. And a nice soundproof rack. And room to put it…

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