Apple Xserve: Can't servers be elegant?

You know you're a true hardcore Mac geek if you first response upon the release of a new piece of hardware is to head over to the Apple Store and customize your ludicrously high-powered dream system. And so it was with me and the new Nehalem-based Xserve; my souped-up custom server weighed in somewhere north of $13,000, although such a computer under my desk surely would make my blogging so efficient that the system would quickly pay for itself.

Of course, I don't have $13,000 to throw at a shiny new computer, and even if I did, it wouldn't actually fit under my desk, I don't think. (Maybe it could serve as a foot-warmer on chilly days?) But according to an interesting bit at the end of a recent post on TidBITS, I'm not the only one having a problem figuring out where to put an Xserve; despite Apple's claim that it "fits into all kinds of standard racks and cabinets," TidBITS says that its 30-inch depth makes spacing awkward in standard racks, and the lack of video or FireWire ports on the front of the unit makes administration complicated. In fact, in the new version's video is in some ways even more awkward than the previous edition, as it only offers a Mini DisplayPort port. Apple is notorious for moving to what it sees as the next thing before the rest of the world has really caught up, but you'd think that on a server product in particular, which are often hooked into KVM switches that are in turn connected to older monitors and keyboards that the server room has inherited, there would be a place for older types of connectors. Yes, there are adapters, but one more dangling thingy hanging off of a port is one more thing that you can't troubleshoot remotely.

The thing that's surprising about all of this is that Apple is renown for its design prowess -- and Apple fans are constantly having to defend "design" as a concept, emphasizing that it means elegance and improved usability, not just the process of making something shiny and attractive. The Xserve is nice to look at, and is literally shiny, but since it will live most of its life in an unlit server room, perhaps elegance should have been a greater emphasis.

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