Apple Changes Virtualization Stance with OS X Lion
Mac OS X Lion was released as a golden master to developers last week, and assuming no major bugs are found, this will be the official release that should come to consumers in July 2011 for a mere $30. But what can we expect for power users? Here’s a quick list of details that server admins and virtualization players should know about Mac OS X Lion and its future in your business, data center or SMB …
Thanks to MacRumors for some EULA digging, discovering that OS X Lion, non-server version, allows native running of virtualized versions of Mac OS X Lion. In fact, users can run up to two virtual boxes of Mac OS X lion from the same licensee, as long as its running on Apple hardware. This represents a shift from Apple’s original stance of only allowing Mac OS X Server versions to run virtualized instances of OS X, in addition to needing a specific licensee for each copy a user wanted to virtualize.
That’s quite a bargain, if you think about it. Anyone already running Snow Leopard can upgrade to Lion for $30 and start virtualizing, making it extremely handy for software developers and other IT admins who use Lion in the workplace. If more server features are needed, the “Server App” add-on is only $50, making Mac OS X Lion Server one of the most affordable virtualization and server solutions you can buy, not including Linux.
Channel implications? You bet. I think Apple is slowly but surely looking to infiltrate the server space. Mac OS X Server is popular mainly because it makes it easy to switch services on and off and has a plethora of built-in server services (mail, wiki, calendar, etc.) that are deployed and managed with a sexy GUI. That’s Apple’s bread and butter. Even if OS X Server is not the most powerful server on the market, Apple’s polish could make it popular to use in situations when IT admins need to quickly put something in their data center that solves a specific problem. It’s possible Apple may keep tabs on how many people use the virtualization features in the client version of Lion, and then, perhaps see how many people upgrade to Lion Server. If use is strong, we could potentially see an OS X 10.8 (or OS XI?) that supports bare metal or non-Apple hardware virtualization, making OS X Servers a simple $100 purchase to deploy inside an existing customer infrastructure.
Of course, this is all speculation, but Apple’s position in the server market is currently minimal with XServe gone. Currently only the server Mac Mini or a “server” version of a Mac Pro remain, but if a new OS X Server is on the horizon, it’s clear Apple wants to maintain a server presence. The company may just be waiting to see if server software demand is high, even without specialized hardware such as XServer. High demand could shift the way Apple markets its high-end technology, especially to the enterprise.
Let us know how you feel about Lion Server, and whether you’d welcome more open virtualization with Apple’s software in the future.