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Opinion: Mac OS X Leopard Server Preview

By Ryan Faas
August 9, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - When Apple unveiled the complete feature set of its next release of Mac OS X, known as Leopard or Mac OS X 10.5, it garnered a lot of impressive feedback for both its new features and redesigned user interface. Judging from Apple's various Leopard demonstrations, the new operating system appears to be well worth all the oohs and ahhs that it has won from commentators.

Likewise, its cousin -- Mac OS X Server 10.5, also known as Leopard Server -- sports an array of new features and technologies. Here's a look at some of the most interesting and impressive.

Simplified setup and server preferences

One of the most anticipated new features is a simplified interface designed for small businesses with few or no IT staffers requiring the power and features of a server platform. Typically, these companies cannot afford to hire a systems administrator or consultant to deploy and/or manage day-to-day operations. The simplified setup autoconfigures many of Mac OS X Server's technologies, including file and print services, and mail service -- either acting as a full-featured mail server or passing messages to an ISP's server.

Other features include collaborative Web services such as blogs and wikis, internal instant messaging, shared calendaring, VPN technology and Open Directory, Mac OS X's native directory service. The sheer number of traditionally complex tasks that Apple will allow users to bypass with this simplified setup is almost mind-boggling. Of course, for more savvy administrators and those who need specific configurations for services, Leopard Server also offers the traditional Mac OS X Server administration tools and options.

Beyond just making server setup easy, Apple claims that configuring access to the server will be equally simple. New client computers will automatically detect servers and configure access to them. Presumably, this will be accomplished with a combination of Apple's Bonjour zero-configuration networking technology -- to locate servers within a network or subnet -- and Open Directory, which already offers capabilities to manage and configure various operating system and application settings on Mac OS X clients.

In addition to a much-simplified setup process, Leopard Server will offer a new administration tool known as Server Preferences. The Server Preferences interface will be very similar to that of Mac OS X's System Preferences utility. It will include panes for basic tasks such as adding/editing user accounts, setting up and managing shared folders, and configuring available services. It will also provide options for setting up a firewall and backups using Apple's Time Machine, one of the major features of Leopard.

Judging from the screenshots that Apple has included

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