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Apple's Xserve serves up more speed

Consumers can now purchase the dual-processor machines used in Virginia Tech's supercomputer, as well as built-in DVD burners.

Apple Computer on Tuesday released a speedier version of its Xserve rack-mounted server, along with a final version of its Xsan storage file system.

The company will now offer a version of the Xserve with two 2.3GHz processors, a model previously made available only to Virginia Tech, which used the machines as part of its System X supercomputer.

"Now we have it available to our entire customer base," said Alex Grossman, director of server and storage hardware for Apple's product marketing group. Apple's Xserve line had topped out with dual-2.0GHz processors.

Apple is keeping pricing for the Xserve line the same while also improving the optical drive from a CD burner to one that can both burn CDs and read DVD discs. While servers aren't often used to play movies, Grossman said more companies are distributing software on DVDs. Customers will also now be able to pay extra for a SuperDrive that can burn DVDs.

"If they want to do any kind of archive or backup, they can now do that," Grossman said.

The system with two 2.3GHz processors will sell for $3,999, while a machine with one 2.0GHz will sell for $2,999. Both include an unlimited client version of Mac OS X Server. Apple also offers a version of Xserve for clustered computers that includes the speedier processor and a 10-user Mac OS X license for $2,999. The 2.3GHz machines also include a faster 1.15GHz system bus.

In addition to the Xserve changes, Apple on Tuesday released version 1.0 of Xsan, a file system for storage gear, which had been in testing for much of last year. Apple had planned to release it by mid-December but last month said it would delay the launch until early this year. Apple declined both then and on Tuesday to state the reason for the delay.

The program, which costs $999 for each Mac or server using it, allows multiple machines to concurrently access information from a storage system such as Apple's Xserve RAID. Apple first announced plans for the software at a trade show for broadcasters in April.

Apple is also adding volume pricing for 10 or more workstation or server nodes, as well as an option for customers to pay an additional $999 per node to get all major releases for the next three years and an option to pay $799 per node per year to get unlimited 24-hour-a-day support.