Apple drinks its own juice

Normally reluctant to discuss even what is served in the company cafeteria, secretive Apple Computer offers a sneak peek into its data center.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
4 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Normally reluctant to discuss even what is served in the company cafeteria, secretive Apple Computer on Thursday offered a sneak peek into its data center.

Trying to make the case that its products belong in large companies, Apple showed how it runs its own business using a great deal of Apple gear.

The disclosures, offered by Apple senior IT director Dean Rally, came as part of a discussion on Apple's role in the enterprise during the "Mac IT" portion of this year's Macworld Expo.

Rally said Xserve is the mainstay of Apple's corporate data center, with the rack-mounted server being used to deliver Web pages, files and applications, as well as for authentication and security.

The company does use a smattering of Sun Microsystems servers to power, among other things, its e-mail systems. Apple also has some servers running IBM's AIX operating system.

As for software, the company does use Microsoft Office for the Mac, but uses its own products for most desktop tasks, including e-mail, instant messaging and Web browsing. As for enterprise applications, Apple is a longtime SAP customer, uses PeopleSoft 8 for customer relationship management and runs software from i2 for forecasting.

To store its data, Apple uses its own Xserve RAID boxes, along with storage from IBM and EMC. The company was once a large EMC customer, but it shifted more to IBM in recent years and is planning to migrate much of the work to Xserve RAID boxes in the coming year.

EMC products handle about a third of the company's storage needs, IBM's Shark units hold more than 36 percent, Big Blue's FastT boxes hold about 18 percent and Xserve RAID systems hold less than 12 percent. By the end of the fiscal year, however, Apple hopes to have more than half of its data on Xserve RAIDs, with the Shark systems holding 30 percent and the FastT and EMC boxes each holding less than 10 percent of the company's data.

Apple also runs much of its own hardware to power its iTunes Music Store and other Internet services. About 75 percent of the gear that powers Apple's online efforts is made up of Apple's Xserve and Xserve RAID products, Rally said following his presentation. "We do have a few Sun boxes mixed in there as well," he said.

One of the big advantages of using so many Macs is you don't have to spend as much on security, Rally maintained, noting that there are no major viruses that affect Mac OS X.

He also made the case that less administration is needed for Macs, pointing out that the company has just 27 IT workers on its help desk. That's one help desk person for each 433 employees, about half to a quarter of what research firm Gartner estimates are needed by typical corporations.

Two-company garage
Apple really liked the name GarageBand. So much so that it paid the company that already owned the name so that Apple could also use it.

A day after Apple announced the music composing and editing software, Garageband.com put out a press release saying that it had reached a deal to allow Apple to share the name.

Garageband.com, a San Francisco-based Web site that offers free, legal MP3 music, said it and Apple reached a deal in April of last year but both parties kept the pact confidential until now.

"We have tremendous respect for Apple's vision and leadership in the digital music space," Garageband.com CEO Ali Partovi said in a statement. "We've always shared their goal of empowering musicians, and today we're excited to share with them our name.

Under the deal, Apple paid a one-time fee in order to use the name "GarageBand" for its software, but Garageband.com maintains the right to use the name for its own products and services. The company also keeps the Garageband.com Web address, which no doubt got some additional traffic this week.

Waiting to exhale It takes a fairly unusual look to stand out at Macworld, but one start-up managed to do the trick.

You Software hired two actors to wander around the show impersonating what the Jack in the Box mascot might look like if he held his breath for an hour. The pair sported on their heads giant blue spheres with smiley faces--the company's logo.

The actors likely got plenty of attention for the company, particularly when one was strolling around Apple's crowded booth. The only downside was that the headphones for the iPod Mini would not stretch over the giant blue head.

Microsoft has the first Word While Apple's booth was the best place to see the latest gear, Microsoft's nearby booth offered the best vintage machines.

Highlighting the fact that Word 1.0 dates back to 1984 and the original Mac, Microsoft showed a collection of vintage Macs running Microsoft software including a Macintosh SE, Mac II CI and an original iMac.