Apple's macOS Server strategy shifts again

The company is planning to deprecate a number of services that could hit SMB customers, though larger enterprise users are less likely to be affected.

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Late last month, Apple quietly unveiled major changes to macOS Server. Although the announcement didn't disclose much about the new abilities macOS Server will gain, it does detail services to be deprecated starting this spring. Though these features won't disappear immediately, they will eventually be removed from future releases and hidden on new macOS Server installations.

Apple said its goal is "to focus more on management of computers, devices, and storage on your network," but the list of services slated for retirement is extensive. Current macOS Server administrators will eventually need replacements for key collaboration tools, including shared contacts, calendars, email, and messaging as well as under-the-hood services such as DHCP, DNS, VPN and the NetInstall Mac deployment service. Web and wiki services are also on the chopping block.

How macOS Server has evolved

macOS Server has gone though multiple refreshes in its nearly 20 year history. It launched in 1999 as Mac OS X Server 1.0 - before the client edition of Mac OS X even arrived. In its initial iteration, it was designed to provide a slew of services needed by Macs in business networks and initially offered no support for non-Mac systems; it relied primarily on technology from NeXT, which Apple acquired in 1996. Released alongside Mac OS 9, Mac OS X Server 1.0 marked Apple's first step in building a true business (and education) platform that included basic network services, remote boot and deployment capabilities, and Mac management.

Although early editions were Mac-only and didn't provide any real scalability, Panther Server, released in 2003, solved many of those issues by incorporating server redundancy functions and support for Windows standards, including Active Directory. Mac deployment and management, however, continued to be the platform's biggest selling point. At the time, Apple had also developed its first rack-mount server hardware as well as advanced network storage solutions (the Xserve and Xserve RAID, respectively). The goal was clearly to make Macs and Mac servers a true enterprise option and good citizens of enterprise and business networks.

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