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Panther Server: Is it ready for the enterprise?

By Yuval Kossovsky
November 12, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Much has been written about the recently released desktop version of Apple Computer's newest operating system, Mac OS X 10.3, or Panther. I'm one of the many who think the Panther client software is rock-solid, has tremendous speed and utility advantages over its predecessor and is generally a better operating system than Windows XP.
But little has yet been said about Panther Server. Over the past week, I've given the new server operating system from Apple a detailed evaluation and have begun field testing. I am happy to say that it's everything I had hoped for and more. This product is truly enterprise-ready, has many service and security improvements and should easily integrate into Mac-dominant or Windows-centric environments.
Over the next few weeks I'll be looking at the various features of Panther Server, paying special attention to what works, what didn't work before, and what may or may not work now. I plan to test QT Streaming, DHCP, NetBoot, VPN services and Windows domain hosting for XP clients and then show you how to make them work (see Part 2 of this story).
This week I'm going to show the operating system in general, identifying the new tools and structures and offering a closer look at the evolution of the user and share-management tool called Workgroup Manager.
The look of Panther
Panther server has the same great new look as the desktop version, as shown here in this screen shot of my test server.

Panther Server

The server-specific management tools are now separate from the other utilities, stored in a folder called Server that's located in the Applications folder. Below you can see the various utilities offered by Apple with its server software. Included are tools for migrating from an AppleShare server, managing RAID hardware and the MySQL manager.
Panther Server

Notably absent are the Server Settings and Server Status tools, which have now been combined into the Server Admin tool. We'll look at this tool more in my next column. Another useful addition is the QTSS Publisher tool, which simplifies the setup and management of the Quicktime streaming server. This tool offers a number of helpful features and can generate the HTML needed for connecting to the selected streaming clip.
Another tool is Server Monitor, which is designed only for monitoring the status of Xserve boxes. It would be nice if they could get it to work with regular desktops acting as servers, I can understand why Apple would be reluctant to endorse that sort of solution. They'd likely prefer customers buy an Xserve than a desktop machine.
And now -- Workgroup Manager!

Workgroup Manager is where user accounts are created, groups of users are managed, shares are set up and access rights assigned. One of the first noticeable changes in this tool is in the preferences area. My organization has more than 500 users, and they take a long time to list. For even larger enterprise accounts, the initial wait after launching this tool usually meant having time to get a cup of coffee. By limiting the search to requested records on start-up, that delay has been eliminated.
Panther Server

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