Macos Server: What's so special about it?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by BeautifulWoman_1984, Nov 15, 2016.

  1. BeautifulWoman_1984 macrumors member

    Sep 5, 2016
    Hi all,

    I'm running MacOS Sierra(non-server) on a Mac Mini mid2011.

    I just browsed the Apple Store and I noticed that Apple's MacOS Server is very cheap. However, I was curious as to what what makes Apple's MacOS Server special and what unique features it offers over the regular MacOS Sierra non-server version?

    I checked and even Apple's official website does not use MacOS Server... Why is this?

  2. writevli macrumors member


    Jul 7, 2013
    Brussels, Belgium
    macOS Server is an application you can add to macOS right from the Mac App Store. Anyone can quickly and easily turn a Mac into a server that’s perfect for home offices, businesses, schools, developers, and hobbyists alike.

    Here’s what you’ll get with macOS Server:

    File Sharing
    • File sharing for Mac, PC, iPhone and iPad
    • Standards-based SMB, AFP, and WebDAV file services
    • Flexible file permissions
    • Spotlight searching

    Profile Manager
    • Mobile device management for Mac and iOS devices
    • Simplified management and deployment of iOS and macOS.
    • Distribution of institution licensed apps and books purchased from the Volume Purchase Program to users or devices
    • Install Software Updates on devices running iOS 10 and mac OS 10.12.
    • Device Enrollment Program integration
    • Web-based administration console
    • Self-service user portal for clearing passcodes, remote lock, and remote wipe

    Caching Server
    • Speed up the download of software distributed by Apple
    • Locally cache apps, books, iTunes U, software updates, and macOS Recovery images
    • Accelerate the download of iCloud data, including documents in iCloud Drive and photos.
    • Fault-tolerant design with multiserver cache replication and load balancing
    • No client configuration required

    Xcode Server
    • Use Xcode to create continuous integration bots that build, analyze, and test on any Mac running macOS Server
    • Configure bots to integrate at a specific time, or continually as code is committed to the repository
    • Automate testing of macOS and iOS apps, executing on multiple connected iOS devices
    • Host your own Git repositories on macOS Server or connect to remote Git or Subversion hosts
    • Remotely access detailed integration summaries and nightly builds using the Web interface

    Time Machine
    • Provide a backup destination for Mac computers on your network
    • Monitor which computers have backed up, when they last backed up, and size of backup
    • Set limits on the amount of Time Machine storage a user can use

    Calendar Server
    • Share calendars, schedule meetings and events, and book conference rooms
    • Standards-based CalDAV server for access from Mac, iPad, iPhone, and PC
    • View availability with free/busy lookups
    • Email invitations and push notifications

    Contacts Server
    • Synchronize contacts with Mac, iPad, and iPhone
    • Allow multiple users to access and update contacts
    • Standards-based CardDAV server

    Wiki Server
    • Point-and-click page edit to change formatting and insert images, movies, and attachments
    • Access controls
    • Tags and comments
    • Revision history
    • Document sharing
    • Quick Look previews

    Mail Server
    • Standards-based SMTP, IMAP, and POP server
    • Push notifications
    • SSL encryption
    • Adaptive junk mail filtering
    • Virus detection and quarantine

    Virtual Private Network
    • Remote access for your network services
    • Encrypted VPN connections for Mac, iPad, iPhone, and PC

    • Block-level SAN file sharing with concurrent read/write access
    • Xsan volume hosting and configuration
    • Volume management, storage pooling, stripping, and volume mapping
    • Real-time monitoring, graphs, and event notifications
    • Metadata controller failover and file system journaling

    Server App
    • Local and remote management
    • Users and group settings
    • View real-time graphs of server usage
    • Receive alerts on network changes, certificate expiration, storage usage, and more

    Some features require an Apple ID and/or compatible Internet access; additional fees and terms apply. Some features require macOS 10.12. Some features require program enrollment. Some features are not available in all countries.
  3. MacsRgr8 macrumors 604


    Sep 8, 2002
    The Netherlands
    LOL, you simply could have linked to the App Store:

    But, to give the OP a short answer.

    Features macOS server gives you, which other options cannot easily do:
    1. NetBoot / NetInstall (boot and install/deploy Macs via the LAN)
    2. Profile Manager (easy to setup in-house MDM server)
    3. Caching server (cache iOS/Mac App Store apps and updates so that other devices in the network download these files much faster)
    4. Xcode server (see above..)

    IMHO, other services can be provided easily or better even by other server software / hardware (NAS, routers, etc.)
  4. tshort macrumors regular

    Jul 20, 2007
    The main thing I use it for is the Caching Service, Time Machine, and File Service. The DNS and DHCP services are not connected in any meaningful way, such that I use my router's services. I don't use the web services; I have a linux VM for that. Contacts, Calendar and Mail; services such as Google or iCloud are better, as those services are basically limited to the local network (or via VPN). And as far as VPN goes, I use SSH tunneling instead.
  5. Cineplex macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2016
    #5 used to run on Mac OS X for the static pages on the www server ( Everything else ran on Solaris or BSD (like, or When the web became a thing for Apple they made heavy investments is Sun, Solaris, and Netscape. After building out such a large infrastructure you can't just switch it all over at the drop of a hat. Most of the web was built in pre NeXT acquisition. WebObjects (made by NeXT) ran most of Apple's properties after the NeXT purchase, but that runs on Solaris and Windows. So no need for OS X, even though it was ported.. By the time Apple could start transitioning they had already abandoned the enterprise OS X concepts. Once they killed the 1U Xserve raid, enterprise use was dead. Factor in all the load balancing and shared resources Akamai (their web host) brings...OS X isn't even a consideration. It's development was just not continued long enough to bring real enterprise grade stability and resources. You wouldn't want to run anything demanding on it or critical. It just isn't as rock solid or expansive as a real enterprise server OS.

    The bottom line is Mac OS X Server is basically abandoned and only received security and functionality updates. When it first came out Apple was trying hard to get into the enterprise market but then after a few years decided to give up. They keep OS X Server around for education, iOS deployal and development, and small business. It helped move a few MacMini's and sell to small business. Even that is gone. I suspect someday soon it will be killed off and it's essential parts rolled into OS X and Xcode.

    My advice to anyone is not to invest in it and move on to something more industry standard.
  6. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    I've been using Server since Snow Leopard Server. I use fewer services than I did initially. Services:

    • Caching -- saves lots of time and network traffic considering I've got 8 Macs and 5 iOS devices in the house.
    • Calendar -- I've switched to using iCloud for this.
    • Contacts -- I've switched to using iCloud for this.
    • File Sharing -- Not actually needed since any Mac will do this, but this service adds a useful UI to maintain permissions and multiple shares.
    • Time Machine -- no need for a Time Capsule
    • VPN -- I also use ssh, which is standard in macOS without the server app
    • DHCP -- The router that my ISP provided did a terrible job with this, so I've been doing it in Server ever since.
    • DNS -- Just made sense to me to also have a local DNS server. This also makes it easy to name my local systems.
    • Open Directory -- I used to use this and it seemed necessary with Snow Leopard Server, but I don't need it now.
    • Wiki -- I played around with this but don't use it. I don't use the Web server.
  7. lennyeiger macrumors member

    Jan 6, 2015
    Santa Cruz, CA
    In the old days (in OS 10.1 or so) a Mac Server was a different OS. Now the Serve app is just that, an app.

    I used it from 2000 until it became an app. The version that worked in 10.6 was much better than the current one, IMO. However, Cineplex is spot on. This is not something to invest in. If you want to serve things up beyond a personal web site, use MAMP, or just go to Linux... Apple got themselves out of this market by making this silly little app. It made some things easy, but anything outside of the mundane is controlled by the Unix command line tools. If you know them intimately, you can do all right. However, it isn't ready for anything serious..
  8. MacsRgr8 macrumors 604


    Sep 8, 2002
    The Netherlands
    From Mac OS X 10.0.3 to Mac OS X 10.6.8 there indeed was a "Server OS". Which cost more, and needed a serial number.

    BTW, Mac OS X (OS X, macOS) all started out as Mac OS X Server 1.x (aka "Rhapsody") which was NeXTSTEP coupled with Mac OS 8 (and "Copland"). This was marketed as a Server OS because:
    a) This "true Apple-server OS", not AppleShare IP... could support Mac OS 8/9 in a networking environment (it had Mac OS 9 NetBooting, AppleTalk routing, AFP FileServer etc.), and
    b) Mac OS X simply wasn't ready as client OS (by far...)
    It needed a better GUI (became Aqua) and an API for quick and easy "porting" of Mac OS 9-apps ro Mac OS X (Carbon API)

    Tough, but very interesting times for the Apple-fan back in those days....
  9. Cineplex macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2016
    That is very true. It was a very good time to be an Apple fan. I miss those days. It is too bad WebObjects had to fall down the sinkhole with everything else. Really had great potential.
  10. MacsRgr8 macrumors 604


    Sep 8, 2002
    The Netherlands
    What wasn't so fun was the G4 "stuck @ 500 Mhz (even 450 Mhz)" times.
    Then finally the faster G4's, even dual CPU config, but shared that single 167 Mhz FSB.

    Once the G5 came, all was well again.... (ahem... PowerBook
    Enter Intel etc.

    The period 1998 - 2005 were IMHO the most interesting times for being an Apple Computer enthusiast.
  11. kiwipeso1 Suspended


    Sep 17, 2001
    Wellington, New Zealand
    I don't bother with caching, as I have unlimited cable which is going to be gigabit cable next month.
    Calendar is not useful, especially as I use google calendar rather than have all my facebook friends turn up as notifications for several birthdays each day of the year.
    Contacts is only useful if you use Mac Mail, in which case you are dependent on bug fixes coinciding with Mac OS updates.

    I use file-sharing, as it enables a simple share system for Plex to my android TV.
    VPN - I would use this if my router didn't support it already. (As a cryptographer, I can confirm this is more secure than crummy SSH. In fact, don't use SSH if you want a secure system.)
    I use DNS in conjunction with my Webserver, but may switch it over to the router, as it seems to be less elegant than having a single DNS at the front door.
    Open Directory is not that useful if you don't have network logins across platforms.
    Wiki is not compatible with Webserver services, so I'd rather have something useful running my domains.
  12. bingeciren macrumors 6502a


    Sep 6, 2011
    I agree with Cineplex. However, as for the comment for investing in something more industry standard, nothing comes even close to the price of the macOS server app.

    I use macOS server with a Mac Mini to run my small business. It runs pretty good as a Mail, Calendar, Notes and VPN server. Since I use my company domain name, cloud services are out of the question. Besides, I like to keep my company's data in my own server.

    macOS Server comes with free Spam and Anti-Virus service. This is a considerable cost saving compared to say running Microsoft's Small Business Server and adding the Spam and Anti-Virus subscriptions on top of it.

    With the aid of some Unix knowledge and the location of system files, it is possible to create a customized "black list" to further improve the spam filter.

    However, in the end, Apple provides next to no support to their server App, and every new version of the server program, in a typical Apple fashion, had less features rather than improvements. One of these days Apple will kill the server too as they did to many other useful things.
  13. kiwipeso1 Suspended


    Sep 17, 2001
    Wellington, New Zealand
    They actually bought back some features in El Capitan Server app that were dropped in Lion Server.
    They won't drop the server app so long as it is the easiest and best server software for any mac desktop regardless of price.
  14. BeautifulWoman_1984 thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 5, 2016
    WOW! Is this really the case?

    It just seems like so much work to create a Mac to run mac OSX Server if it isn't supported very well at the moment and then will be killed off...
  15. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    (a) Why would Apple expend a lot of effort on OSX Server when they no longer make any server-class hardware to run it on? The last credible server hardware Apple made was the XServe - even the now-defunct Mac Pro Server and Mac Mini Server were only really suitable, hardware-wise, for small workgroups. Meanwhile, the Mac has had to evolve to work seamlessly with Windows/Linux servers, so there's no particular need for Mac users to choose a Mac server.

    (b) How could Apple make successful server-class hardware when their Unique Selling Point is their GUI, ease-of-use and consumer-friendly industrial design - none of which are particularly relevant to the server market. The original PPC XServe had extra appeal because (at the time) the PowerPC architecture was arguably superior to Intel, but after the Intel switch it was just a "me too" rackmount server.

    Lets face it - if you're trying to run a website or email service from a home/small office server under the desk hooked to your ADSL line - rather than a virtual service out there in cloud land - you're holding it wrong. If you want file sharing you can use any old NAS appliance or use iCloud/DropBox/Google Drive (and, actually, setting up Netatalk and enabling Time Machine on a Linux box is fairly simple).

    Now, OS X server does have tools for managing/deploying Macs and iDevices - but the modern alternative would be something like this:, I'm sure that the annual fee for that would turn SOHO users white with shock, but if you're big enough for the alternative to be employing a full-time IT person its probably a great deal. So, really, the niche for OS X Server is: Mom & Pop outfits just big enough to need MacOS/iOS device management facilities, but small enough that either Mom or Pop has time to double as the IT department.

    That said... although individual decisions can be defended (dropping server hardware, dropping network hardware, dropping displays) Apple can only play the "hey, other people can do this better than us - lets concentrate on making our consumer products thinner and lighter" for so long if they want Mac OS to keep making sense as a general computing platform. An ecosystem can't survive on meerkats alone just because they top the 'favourite animal' poll.
  16. kiwipeso1 Suspended


    Sep 17, 2001
    Wellington, New Zealand
    No, it's not the case at all. Apple has a brilliant product which takes very little effort to support, so it will not abandon it.
  17. Cineplex macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2016
    That logic could be applied to Shake, DVD Studio Pro, Aperture, WebObjects, CinemaTools, Color, SoundTrack Pro, Final Cut Server, LiveType, iWeb, & iDVD. The pro video people know exactly why your logic is flawed. If Apple wants to abandoned a successful product, they will. Shake had all the market share and was the cheapest tool around....didn't stop Apple from killing it off. OS X Server is the same. It's day will come...sooner rather than later.

    Sorry, but it is the case. Brilliance does not guarantee anything....and based on my experience with it over the last 16 years...brilliance would be the last word I'd use to describe it. The older version were great products, but they had their issues. The current incarnation of it is just toy like in my opinion.

    If you can't see the writing on the wall I can't help you. They don't make servers anymore...that is clue number one. The second clue is they don't have anything about it on a peep. The third is they are not marketing it to business or enterprise anymore. If you call them about it, they will direct you to other solutions. Fourth...Apple is not actively participating in any of the related open source programs. And the final reason, Apple charges next to nothing for it. It isn't even a full OS, just an add-on package. They keep it around for it's very limited use cases. The hammer will drop sooner or later. It just doesn't make sense for Apple to continue developing a product from a strategy long long abandoned. No server, no reason for Mac OS X Server. You would never run this product in a serious server environment because there is NOTHING to run it on. If you think a Mac Mini or an iMac is a server, you would be really misguided. This is also not a home product, though it looks like that is it's only customer today. Your logic about it taking little effort to support is incorrect. Keeping all the different server components up to date is not easy. A lot of work goes into to integrating the next version of a service and making sure the layer of Apple automation on top works correctly. This is not just one guy at Apple, this is a team of people working on this. There is an expense to this, an expense that Apple is probably having a hard time justifying. The only thing keeping this alive is the iOS deployment and Xcode stuff. There are probably a few schools out there with aging Xserves or minis that still use it and require support. There will be a solution from them that will take this product off the market. Most of it's management functions could be put into a single app for schools removing the need for Server. Xcode could have the iOS stuff built into it instead of relying on Server. Remote Desktop could do more.

    It is just not going to be around for very much longer.
  18. AlanShutko macrumors 6502a

    Jun 2, 2008
    Technically, Xcode does have all the server stuff baked into the I think the only part of "Server" it uses is Apache config and the configuration.
  19. Cineplex macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2016
    But all the device profiling for the iOS internal app deploys still relies on the Server OS doesn't it?
  20. AlanShutko macrumors 6502a

    Jun 2, 2008
    I don't think so. When I looked at the code, it looked like Xcode was hosting the provisioning profiles, generating the plist, and signing the apps all by itself. (For those curious, you can find the Xcode server stuff in
    /Applications/, with source run by the node.js runtime in
    /Applications/ . The code that does installation manifests (plist) is all in javascript in there.)
  21. Cineplex macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2016
    Looks like you need Server if you are going to share the code and projects amount a group. Though I could see that being tossed into Xcode.

    It also looks like "Xcode Server" is still used to distribute the apps for testing and internal use. But it also looks like you can do it individually in Xcode. Server makes it easier for everyone else I guess. Something that probably will just become part of Xcode down the road.

  22. AlanShutko macrumors 6502a

    Jun 2, 2008
    Git and subversion hosting is part of Xcode Server, not Right now, you need Server in order to use Xcode Server, but all the Xcode Server code is actually bundled within the

    The internal app distribution is also part of Xcode Server (and I love it).

    So I could see going away, with Xcode Server remaining, but as a piece of Xcode that you could stand up on any Mac. I could also see project hosting/source control going away completely, since the feature is pretty minimal as it stands today, and there are so many other options out there (GitHub, Gitlab, Bitkeeper, built-in support for internal hosting on NAS devices like Synology, etc).
  23. Cineplex macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2016
    Ahhh. So they are basically just forcing OS X Server on you to make $20. I wonder what parts of the Server OS it is actually using. Maybe nothing. They are probably just throwing in separate parts that have no reason to be included with OS X Server other than to make Apple $20 from developers. I've never done anything in Xcode that required sharing projects or distributing iOS apps. I just did some simple iOS apps and some AppleScript based applications. Nothing fancy. I have very limited knowledge of modern source control products....mostly because I had no reason to use them. On some projects the last thing I needed was other developers chiming in. lol
  24. AlanShutko macrumors 6502a

    Jun 2, 2008
    If you're part of an Apple Developer Program (i.e., the $99 account that lets you submit to the app store) you get Server for free as part of your membership. If you're not, and just deploying your app on your phone, you would either need to buy server or do without, I guess. But at that level, someone probably wouldn't really need it.
  25. belvdr macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2005
    No longer logging into MR
    I think the last time I used MacOS Server was 10.3 or 10.4. All I remember was it was a bit too consumer-ish for my needs.

    It's GUI reminded me a lot of Windows Small Business Server, so you could do things without an IT department. If you knew what you were doing, it just got in the way.

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